A Comparative Stylistic Analysis of Female Characters Using Modality with Regard to Point of View
Kristine Joy Delos Santos-Urriza
Philippine Normal University
The present paper used two modal frameworks for comparative stylistic analysis of two feminist authors. The first is Simpson’s modal framework for identifying the point of view in the two stories ? ‘The Story of an Hour’ by Kate Chopin, an American author who is a mainstay in feminist literary study and ‘The Legacy’ by Virginia Woolf, an English author, considered as symbolic figure of the feminist movement and one of the most famous and remarkable modernist literary writers of the 20th century. Another is the proposed framework of Oamil et. al for the purpose of comparing the two female protagonists in two different short stories. As stylistics has to do in the reader’s interpretation focusing on the linguistic choices, Simpson’s modal framework would let the reader identify the character of the female protagonists. The results show that the stories compared are both epistemic and perception type meaning that expressions of modals are knowledge, belief and cognition or perception. The mental state of the characters contains cognitive processes account for the narrator’s point of view. This shows that the narrator is uncertain or feeling estrange in the situations and events. Since epistemic modal was evident, the shade of the story falls on the negative because of the choice of modals used. Therefore it can be inferred that the two stories is where the narrator is uncertain on what was going on in the character’s thoughts and concerns. More so, the uncertainty is stressed by the narrator’s reliance on her perception of the external surroundings or appearances.
This paper is designed as a comparative analysis of two literary characters of women trapped in an unhappy marriage and is feminist characters who challenged the traditional view of marriage/love in a male-dominated society. – Mrs. Loiuse Mallard, the main character of the most famous short story ‘The Story of an Hour’, by Kate Chopin, appeared in 1894 (Meyer 1996:12-14) and Angela Clandon, one of the main characters of the short story, ‘The Legacy’ by Virginia Woolf, which was published in 1944 (Arias, 2015). In this paper I will compare and contrast these two characters and their emotional needs with regards to husband-wife relationship, marriage, love, individuality and freedom. I will analyze their characters based on the structure of the sentences using the modality present used by the narrators in the stories. The characters who serve as the protagonists in the two stories reflect the author’s view of the repressive role that marriage played in women’s lives. Mrs. Louise Mallard feels immense happiness finding out that her husband died in a train accident. She is a wife, inflicted by heart trouble and who wishes to be free from his blind relationship wherein she thought that her marriage gives her the feeling of being oppressed and vice versa. The second character, Angela Clandon, on her diaries which served as the legacy left to her husband, revealed that she had an affair with with a radical working man and who committed suicide after not getting what he wants from Angela (divorce). Knowing that the man she fell in love with committed suicide, she also committed suicide because of her yearning to be with her beloved B.M. Both of the female protagonists are trapped within the bonds of marriage. Angela recognizes that the norms of society prevents her to divorce Gilbert, her husband for her lover. While Mrs. Mallard on her short dream or private thoughts, experiences independence and monstrous joy for she will be free indeed at the death of her husband.
Language is an important medium and a meaningful activity for men. Through the use of language, characters in a story can be described, be comprehended and be revealed by analysing the inner thoughts, behaviour, actions, feelings and say in context. Halliday, a systemic functional linguist, has pointed out that the language interpersonal function consists of mood system, modality system, and key system (Mao, 2014). Halliday’s interpersonal function as one of the functional principles in identifying text’s meaning or interpretation is to be tapped in this paper. Modality will be the focus of this study for it is used extensively and it is one of the most important systems in social communication. According to Wang (2010) modality refers to the intermediate ranges between the extreme positive and the extreme negative. As to what Halliday corresponds, a thorough analysis of a language would be allowed by a lexico-grammatical choice (Haratyan, 2011). In addition, a focus on modality helps the readers to see the attitude and opinion of the speaker in a particular situation evident in a sentence (Simpson, 1993).
To better understand literary prose Simpson (2004) and Palmer (2003) discussed modality according to points of view. Modality is concerned with the ability and attitude of the persona/narrator and attitude towards the situation or event expressed in a sentence (Simpson). As a result, the modality usage in a story captures thoughts, feelings and senses.
Since the aim of this paper is to analyse the use of the modality with regards to the comparison of the two protagonists in the two stories, the following questions were addressed to help the analysis of the attitude of persona or characters:
What does the character say/speak?
What is revealed in the character’s private thoughts and feelings?
How do other characters feel or behave in reaction to the character?
How is the character portrayed in the story in terms of appearance and the way she dress?
The present study opted to use two models: Simpson’s modal framework because it focuses not only on the types of modality used in a literary prose, but also on how these modality determines ?the essence of a story’s style and that provides the story with its particular feel and colour (Iwamoto 2007); and Oamil’s Proposed Model for Comparative Study in Literature (Oamil et. al. 2014) because this study mainly analysed and compared (and differentiated) two authors’ works. The framework below is used in the analysis of the paper:
Based on the framework marks the psychological point of view such as positive, negative and neutral shading. Under Positive shading is Deontic and Boulomic modality. Deontic modality is the modal system of obligation, duty and commitment. Duty is used to indicate a ‘continuum of commitment”. Deontic modality can be indicated through modal auxiliary verbs such as should, must, may also ‘be…that’ constructions and ‘be…to’ constructions. Using the following may tell the narrator’s feeling of obligation and commitment in telling the story.
Boulomic modality is the modal system of desire. it is used to indicate the extent to which the a speaker finds a particular proposition desirable or undesirable. Boulomic modals indicated through the use of hope, wish, regret, love, hate, like, dislike,want and so on expressing this type of modality ‘be…to’and ‘be…that’ constructions.
Under the Negative shading is Epistemic and Perception modality. Epistemic represents a speaker’s degree of confidence or lack of confidence in the truth of a proposition. it is the modal system of knowledge, belief and cognition. epistemic modality is expressed in the use of the modals, could, may, might, must, shall, should and will. In using the modal adverbs, allegedly, arguably, certainly, maybe, perhaps, possibly, probably, surely, supposedly and adjectives ‘be..to’ and ‘be…that’ constructions.
Perception modality is under or a sub category of Epistemic. Here the speaker’s confidence in the truth of a proposition is based on the faculties of their perception as visual and can be auditory perception. Modal adverbs that express perception are obviously, clearly, evidently, apparently and adjectives ‘be…to’ constructions like obvious that, clear that, apparent that; verbs includes, see, seem and hear.
The last type is neutral shading that is based only on categorical assertions alone without the use/ absence/ with no/or only a handful of modality. Stories using neutral shading primarily composed of judgment.
The Story of an Hour
The present study investigated the use of modality in the short story entitled The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin, an American author. During the time of Kate Chopin,in the 19th century, women were often lacked in societal and legal rights that would allowed them to have their freedom and identity. They are under their father’s or husband’s authority. They are merely called on their married status for they were defined solely by marriage. Kate Chopin wrote this story in a patriarchal society where women’s role is restricted. Therefore, the female protagonist named Mrs. Louise Mallard represents in their time that wives in America had no freedom unless their husband died.
The story was written in an omniscient third-person narrator that enables Kate Chopin to tell a complete story that’s not limited to the protagonist’s point of view. The narrator’s description of Mrs. Mallard shows someone who brushes off the notions of love and even the best of marriages for the glorious idea of pure freedom. Meanwhile, the people around her think she’s crying her eyes out over her dead husband. Really, though, she’s relieved to be free. No one understands her. At the end of the story, the doctors agree that she must have passed away from a sudden shock of extreme happiness from finding out that her husband lived after all: from “joy that kills”. The health issue and the reaction of the main character was the reason why the researcher primarily opted to analyse this as one of the pieces of the literature. The main character’s surprising reaction to her husband’s death reflects the often complicated feelings women in the late 19th and early 20th centuries had about marriage; pose a lot ironic realities in the main characters weak heart, which are highlighted with the excessive use of modalities.
The Legacy, the other piece of literature used to be compared is written by an English writer, Victoria Woolf. The story is written in third person-limited point of view then to the female protagonist point of view. It is written during the Victorian era, where Woolf portrays wife as locked into unhappy marriage at the time of a patriarchal society. Angela, the female protagonist is a very sincere, careful and helpful woman of this story who leaves ironically fifteen volumes of the diary she is never willing to share inside her desk before she dies with her husband, Mr. Gilbert Clandon. One day Mr. Clandon, his husband, discovers it and starts to read it. But more than bust a notebook, it represents an evidence of Angela’s thoughts, detailed events and scenarios, the truth about the life Mr. Clandon is never into. The protagonist’s diary reveals her true needs, her way of thinking and her secret affair reflects. This paper will only highlights Angela’s character based on the diary looking on the use of modality.
MODE OF ANALYSIS
The Story of an Hour
The analysis is mainly focused on the character’s thought process and behaviour as sentences shown by the use of modality. Sentences are used in this analysis because the story is too short and can be analysed in sentences.
The beginning of the sentence knowing is a lexical modal verb and constitutes an epistemic modal (Gavins, 2007: 110) in which the truth value of a proposition (its epistemic commitment). The protagonist is characterized here as weak because of how the news was brought to her. It is implied that there are people who are sensitive to her health issue and she has to be handled gently for her not to be shocked on the news that her husband died
The use of seemed in the sentence is a perception modal. The narrator is uncertain in describing the characters feelings and emotions. Now Mrs. Mallard is sitting on the chair, facing the window as seen in the next sentences below:
The use of epistemic modal verb ‘could’ and the use of adjectives telling about the sight, hearing and even taste tells about the belief or perception of the character. The setting is spring and all her senses are invited- through use of relational deixis- to see the tops of trees that all were aquiver with the new spring life, smell the delicious breath of rain in the air, hear a peddler…crying his wares, hear the notes of a distant song and sparrows twittering in the eves and seeing again patches of blue sky which are contrasted with the clouds that had met and piled one above the other in the west facing her window.
The narrator is trying to reveal the main character’s inner thoughts by telling that Mrs. Mallard is like a child who had cried itself to sleep continues to sob in its dreams. The use of quite in the sentence expresses the probability of the characters stillness or calmness.
The narrator portrays the protagonist facial features as calm. the narrator’s use of ‘quite’ as modal adverb communicate that is epistemic. Mrs. Mallard is thinking of something fearfully.
The lexical ‘something’ represents Mrs Mallard’s confusion, as well as the use of the indefinite “it’ and the contrast emphasizing the use of by emphasized the epistemic certainty of the opening line. There is confusion between the protagonist and the narrator.
The narrator expresses a high degree of confidence in the characters assessment of she what to do when her husband’s death body is in front of her. Her assumptions about the situation are grounded in her perception of external signs. She seems to be satisfied with her sense of discovery and she starts to think of her future.
It can be seen that where the narrator invites the reader to reflect on elixir of life as an image/concept originated in the middle ages, of a drink that is expected to make one’s life longer- and relate it to the speaker’s world which seems now a happy one. Now, it is presented that Louise is now free from the bonds of marriage and she prepares herself for a brighter future.
The modal adverb ‘unwittingly’ pertains to another adverb which is unknowingly is epistemic.The narrator/author gave the concept of the goddess of victory which comes from Greek mythology which portrays that Louise is winning her battle against oppression in a male dominated society.
The last sentence in the story involves the doctor’s perception and perhaps Josephine and Richards that she died happy finding out that Louise’s husband is still alive.
The modality to be analysed in the short story entitled The Legacy using Simpsons Modal System (cited in Parina) comprising deontic, boulomic, epistemic and perception will be identified in the paragraphs taken from the story that focus on the character’s diary and description narrated by the author.
Angela says here that she is proud pertain to her confidence and fall to epistemic modality. She sees Gilbert as a perfect man and she feels like that.
The use of constructions of ‘am… to’ is epistemic as well. Angela is a little bit naive person beside her charm so she affects people her naivety and beauty.
The character used the verb ‘wish’ to indicate the desire. She finds that having a son is a type of boulomic modality. She wants to have a baby because both cheer Gilbert up and maybe increases his attention to her and escape from loneliness.
The use of ‘quite’ ‘certain’ and modal ‘will’ are both perception modals. The character portrays confidence in the truth of a proposition based on their own perception. She can think like that just because naivety of her but also she can consider if he is busy a lot with his work and not pay attention so much to me, it have to make sense, at least, he will be successful in his business.
The modal lexical ‘seem’ is perception modal. She is so thoughtful to his husband that even if she gets bored at home and do something by herself except chores, she is afraid to express her thoughts to Gilbert. She thinks it is a selfish behavior although Gilbert is fully concentrated on his business.
Paragraphs 9 and 17 tells about the character’s desire by using the modal verbs ‘wished and wanted’ which indicates boulomic modality. These boulomic lexical verbs provide an insight into the female character’s attitude towards her request to work. It is true that she helps her husband in certain issues but she thinks she feels so idle, so useless. She wishes to have some work of her own.
The modal verb ‘seemed’ is a perception modal. She wears nice clothes, which she thinks fit for her however Gilbert felt really mad at the way she dressed, because she tried to do her job seriously.
At the very beginning of the meeting with B.M., Angela’s secret affair with, she argues for upper classes side but then as the other sentence:
The use of the ‘think’ and ‘can’ communicates that it is epistemic. It may mean that she starts to get B.M’s ideas as a lifestyle.
B.M must be so careful, intellectual person because she really is really impressed by him and their relationship goes on in the house in private. The adverb ‘luckily’ provides an insight to the female character’s situation.
In the written diary of the protagonist, the man whom he loves wants to be with Angela, beside himself. The idea of divorcing Gilbert if not possible or so if this is not going to be, he can end his life. The female character cannot keep on writing what he says instead she preferred to write meaningless things because she cannot deal with his absence.
The protagonist here depicts that she has lack of confidence which is epistemic. She loves B.M but also she cannot manage to leave Gilbert. She is in a dilemma.
As seen on the two characters’ analysis, epistemic modality is very evident in the use of the third person point of view of the narrator. The first story, “The Story of an Hour” is evidently epistemic while “The Legacy” has boulomic modality which pertains to the personal desires and longings of the female protagonist yet epistemic modality is also preponderant. The two short stories showed preeminence in the use of epistemic modalities. Generally, epistemic modals are markers that are used in signaling judgments of belief, certainty or truth and for foregrounding the narrators’ effort to interpret and make sense of what he sees and hears (Simpson, 2004).
To conclude, in the works of both authors, women characters are under male domination. However because of a gap of 50 years between the writing of these two short stories in different settings, Mrs. Mallard in Chopin’s story (The Story of an Hour) , we can see woman here who is oppressed inside marriage only wants to be free and to enjoy herself without the presence of her husband. While in Woolf’s story (The Legacy) in spite of tradition, emotionless and oppressed marriage, Angela, the wife, always keeps distance between her and her husband to gain her independence and individuality. She in perfect health had her independence of having a job and afterwards deceives her husband for having an affair which is different from the first character who was inflicted by a heart trouble and served the husband in the four corners of their home.
Mrs. Louise Mallard is seen to be that energy and her body come alive by shouting “Go away. I am not making myself ill.” and whispering to herself “free, free, free!”. Shouting back from the room gives the sense that she has an energy within her and whispering the word ‘free’ many times shows the privacy and secrecy of her happiness that she has the freedom and opportunity to be her own. While Angela Clandon based on her diary, at the beginning their marriage life was a happy one but time goes in turned to a lonely, unhappy marriage. Her diary serves as that she seeks her own chamber where she can convey her own voice and express herself freely without the domination of men. Woolf draws in Angela’s diary the ‘Egypt, Egypt, Egypt’ which Israelite’s were enslaved in Egypt, suggesting that Angela too may have felt enslaved or trapped within her marriage to Gilbert. The similarities of the two characters were both dissatisfied in their marriage and wanted to have their own identity and independence, freedom from their husbands.
It is revealed that in Mrs. Mallards private thoughts that she is happy, more joys at the opportunity for her at the death of her husband. She foresees the chance to live out the rest of her days and the opportunity to be her own. Before she dreaded the years living with her husband, now she longs for a long life. Meanwhile, Angela’s thoughts and feelings are revealed through her diary. It depicts her growing dissatisfaction with the marriage and her forbidden affair. She deceives her husband and had a relationship to a lower class.
Because of the health condition of Mrs. Mallard, Richard and Josephine are very light in bringing the news. They are very concern towards her health. While Angela, because she has been the soul of candour, her husband thinks that she would not conceal anything to him. Her husband sees her as childlike which serves as her charm. Thus, her husband has no opposition to her when it comes to request of getting a job.
Given in the sentences mentioned Mrs. Mallard is held back in her marriage. The lines of her face “bespoke repression”. While Angela is a very beautiful charming wife but the way she dress is hated by her husband.
Both stories are epistemic and perception type. Modals used are knowledge, belief and cognition or perception. The mental state of the characters contains cognitive processes account for the narrator’s point of view. Because this type of point of view is internal, “the estrangement devices from within a participating character’s consciousness” signify his/her uncertainty about events or characters in the story (Simpson 1993:58) or cynicism toward them. This shows that the narrator is uncertain or feeling estrange in the situations and events. Since epistemic modal was evident, the shade of the story falls on the negative because of the choice of modals used. Therefore it can be inferred that the two stories is where the narrator is uncertain on what was going on in the character’s thoughts and concerns. More so, the uncertainty is stressed by the narrator’s reliance on her perception of the external surroundings or appearances.
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