Feminist Literary Theory can be defined as ” literary criticism informed by feminist theory, or, more broadly, by the politics of feminism. It uses feminist principles and ideology to critique the language of literature. (Wikipedia)” And once completing The Antagonist by Lynn Coady, it is clear that the Feminist Literary Theory is present throughout the novel. Despite the limited amount of female character’s in this story, many details from this best selling novel point towards feminism and what it stands for.
Sylvie, being Rank’s mother, was mentioned countless times throughout his story. Aside from her death, Rank seemed to address their relationship and how he felt about his mother. He was very protective over his mother, and even to this day gets protective over her. In one of his email’s to Adam, he mentions his discouragement with how Adam chose to explain his mother’s death, which was “His mother had died”. His response back was “Jesus, Adam! Why this attack after twenty years? That’s what it felt like- an attack, vicious, out of the blue, out of nowhere. (271)” I feel as though this was Rank implying that Adam knew how much Rank loved his mother and how much her death played a part in his life, and Adam chose to explain it dull and emotionless.
Furthermore, Rank had many negative words describing the ways his father Gord treated his mother Sylvie. Even though there was no evidence of physical abuse, verbal abuse was very common in the Rankin household. For example, Rank explains the exhaustion Gord would force on Sylvie, stating “My father’s wrath, and the immense, inexhaustible supply of energy he always drew from it, was, for the first time i’d ever witnessed, spent” (323). Gord had presented his lack of respect for Sylvie throughout the novel, and felt no emotion while destroying her with words everyday.
Considering the fact that Rank chose to leave the story behind Sylvie’s death until the end of the story, I feel as though he was doing this in respect towards her. Also, this is not the only instance in which Rank showed respect towards women. Another instance is when Rank decides to confront Kyle about an incident that Rank overheard, which was when Kyle was in a room with another woman and Rank heard a very loud slap. When Rank confronted him about it, Kyle brushed it off saying it was consensual. Rank did not believe this, as earlier on in the novel while they were having a conversation about women in general, Kyle decided to state “They’re all whores” (205).
In conclusion, there are many differences in views between Rank and Gord. Looking at these differences, it is clear that Rank has much more respect for women rather than his father Gord. Gord proved throughout the novel he took his wife Sylvie for granted, and always had a negative comment to say towards her. He did not ever acknowledge his wife’s feelings, and his grief after her death was very minimal. However, throughout this novel, women are not represented negatively through Rank’s eyes. If anything, Rank’s relationships with women helped him bring out his feelings and deal with his conflict’s that still come up to this day.
“Feminist literary criticism.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 12 May 2017. Web. 14 May 2017.
Lynn Coady . The Antagonist . Toronto, ON : House of Anansi Press Inc., 2012. Print.