"Just a good Frenchwoman": How gender roles are reinforced and questioned in Irène Némirovsky's Suite Française (2004) in the context of WWII
Aizpurua Insausti, Maddi
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There is an ongoing debate among historians and Gender Studies’ scholars regarding the effect war has on gender roles. Some believe that war has in many occasions offered new opportunities to women, that they were liberated from some gender roles, while others assert that, although in wartime women have taken new roles or been liberated from traditional roles, these changes were not preserved after the war. In this dissertation I argue that although the Paris exodus and the National Socialist occupation during WWII reinforce gender roles on women in Irène Némirovsky’s Suite Française, that situation also provides an opportunity of liberation from these, since the historical context helps them women to free from the traditional roles they have been assigned. In order to show this, I will first provide the sociohistorical context of women before and after WWII in France (the novel’s setting) and Germany (from which Nazi soldiers that occupy France are from). Then I will explain Irène Némirovsky’s life, literary career and the situation in which she wrote the novel. Afterwards, I will analyse the text through a feminist perspective highlighting the different instances of reinforcement and liberation of gender roles in female characters. The analysis conducted in this dissertation shows that regarding the reinforcement of gender roles, perpetuation of traditional roles resides in young male characters and that in some cases there is a double burden for women (due to gender and social class) as well as double standards with regard to men and women. On the other hand, liberation from gender roles is in some cases not definitive or a double-edged weapon. Nevertheless, in the case of some characters there is deep development, which results in independence. After the war, however, it is highly possible for women to be assigned the roles they were liberated from during the war.