A Marxist Feminist reading of Little Girl by Usman Awang
Mehdi Hassanian esfahani (GS22456)
Literary Theory (BBL5201) – Final Examination
Marxist Criticism studies society and social classes, and the clash between norms and
ideologies of ruling class (who have the power or bourgeois) and lower class (proletariats).
Defining individuals by their social interchanges which are dependent on economical
subjects, it predicts a revolution by lower class against the power and the hope to distribute
it equally among people within a classless society (i.e. Communism).
Marxist Feminism is a subtype of Feminism which is concerned about gender as well
as class issues. It does not deny the role of patriarchy in suppression of women, but counts
also the effect of Capitalism, and classist society. It focuses, according to Guerin, “on
relation between reading and social realities” (202). It questions the role of women in
personal life and in society and observes their reaction toward the classist society. It
provides the area to observe the differences between male and female point of view,
behavior and reaction toward social oppressions.
Little Girl by Usman Awang depicts us a snapshot of an unnamed girl whose father is
imprisoned due to fighting against current ‘oppression’ in society. He is among the warriors
who believe in their rebellion; being imprisoned, he courageously accepts his deeds and
waits for the big day (when he hears the collapse of oppressors, or become free to continue
Among these middle class people, there is another man, a lawyer perhaps, or may be
just a protective friend who helps this man. He has visited the man all these years, and
protected his little girl kindly. In a classist society, superstructure tries to abolish rebellions
and all they have. It ignores their presence and their names. Being powerless (from lower
class) is equivalent of being unimportant personally. Characters in Little Girl lack the
identity, they are friends and know each other, but there is no name and no job to be
Showalter in categorizing Feminist literary texts finds three phases in development
of Feminism. The primary one was to imitate male-dominant traditions (Feminine phase),
the following was to rebel and reject patriarchy (Feminist phase), and the current stage, that
is the Female phase, unlike the previous ones accepts differences between genders, and
tries to find the identity and establish women’s own traditions.
The little girl, here, is the offspring of a generation struggling and fighting against
social structure, the power, classism and Capitalism. She may seem to be ‘young and thin’,
but her ‘soul is experienced’. She knows well that to achieve the goals one should be patient
and ‘steady’. Being a girl, she is not considered or expected to be a part of the fight against
the power. The man who cares for and the father are both a part of this struggle, and if they
take her into account, it is to ‘sympathize and pity’. But she knows herself. She needs to
establish her way. She is half aware of her identity, of ‘herself’; she does not need to
explain. And she is the person of action. She has a plan. She waits and smiles. She ignores to
receive any ‘help’ from the man, as she has no connection to patriarchal groups or
individuals. With a father in prison, she has managed somehow to settle down her life, even
if it is ‘unique and not anyone can grow strong this way’. This power is the result of
She seems thin, but she is ‘strong, like an areca palm, standing erect in heavy storm,
waits for the morning sun’. She is the mixture of revolutionary ideology of Marxists and the
patient wisdom of Feminists. She rejects ‘money’, and she rejects emotions. If there is
anything she needs, it should be ‘books and paper’. Her plan is to inform, to aware, to
discuss and awake others as well. She knows that the ultimate peace comes when all people
contribute to fulfill their common need. Equality belongs to all, and society should be
prepared for it. She does not consider her situation personal and unique. Believing that
‘there are many other children in the world like her’, she is hopeful toward future; ‘awaits
the sun’. Talking about other girls as comrades, she believes that they will succeed and the
revolution, the change, and the future belongs to them.
Awang, in Little Girl, presents an oppressed society, and two generations of people.
If the father is arrested, and the other man (who is called uncle) is not seriously involved in
fighting against the oppression and superstructure, if he is patriarchal and cannot realize the
universality of their struggle, but the next generation, the girl is ‘mature and experienced’.
Being oppressed by society and patriarchy, she has a plan. Being self-confident and strong,
she seems to be the leader of revolutionary movement who will (seek and) establish
equality for men and women, distribute economical resources between people and bring
them a classless society. She is the ultimate goal of Marxist Feminism. Her acts are
promising and one day she will ‘destroy the purpose of a thousand prisons’.
Guerin, Wilfred L. A Handbook of Critical Approaches to Literature. US: Oxford University
Showalter, Elaine. Toward a Feminist Poetics; Women’s Writing and Writing about Women.
London: Croom Helm, 1979.