Subverting the ideal of womanhood: Mary Lavin's Sarah and female agency

Eloísa Dall'Bello, Beatriz Kopschitz Xavier Bastos


Women’s living conditions in the Republic of Ireland, in the 1940s, were strongly conditioned by the Catholic beliefs, since the Church still held great influence at institutional levels and maintained close relations to leading politicians. The 1937 Constitution was the clearest proof of such relation, and tried to confine women’s role merely to the functions of wife and mother. The short story Sarah, written by Mary Lavin (1943), discloses the patriarchal standards and stifling social mores imposed on women at the time. Sarah, of the title, lives the struggle of being an unmarried mother in a conservative and merciless society. In this paper, I argue that, in spite of being inserted in such constrictive environment, Sarah denotes a position of agency, to the extent that she does not conform with such pre-established moral and socially acceptable behaviors.


Literature; Irish Literature; Irish Short Fiction

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