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S H A R O N H O O V E R Alfred University The“Wonderfulness”ofTheaKronborg’s Voice1 i In Willa Cather’s The Song of the Lark, when Fred Ottenburg dis­ misses the role of Fricka in Wagner’s “Rheingold” as “ ‘not an alluring part,”’Thea Kronborg retorts, “‘Then you’ve never heard itwell done.’” Then she immediately relates her presentation of Fricka to her mother by asking, “‘You remember, Doctor Archie, how my mother alwayswore her hair. . .?’” (535). Thea interprets Fricka’s character as like her mother’s— strong, loving, and responsible. Fred recognizes these con­ nections when he hears Thea sing Fricka: Fricka had been sung as ajealous spouse for so long that he had forgot she meant wisdom before she meant domestic order, and that, in any event, she was always a goddess. The Frickaofthat afternoon was so clear and sunny, so nobly conceived, that she quite redeemed from shabbi­ ness the helplessness and unscrupulousness of the gods. Her re­ proaches to Wotan were the pleadings ofa tempered mind, a consistent sense of beauty. (538-539) Wotan, who has made a bargain with the giants, carelessly assumes he can break his word without bringing disgrace to the gods, and later, that he can have the Rheingold for himselfby one means or another, rather than returning it to its rightful place. Yet, throughout Das Rheingold and the other operas that make up the Ring, Wotan’s story is interpreted by the singer and the audience as an heroic one, albeit doomed, and the audience suffers vicariously with him. Fricka, on the other hand, who reminds Wotan that as leader of the gods, he must, above all, uphold the laws of the gods, was “long portrayed as a nagging, frumpy German Hausfrau (Giannone 98). 258 WesternAmerican Literature Just as Fricka’s character was often interpreted in an unflattering manner, so, too, has Thea Kronborg’s. Thea’s behavior of separation and individuation as a young adult isjudged more harshly than would comparable behavior by a male, say aJim Burden, who, like Thea, goes off to the cityto make a successful career,just as Fricka’sconcern for her sister goddess isjudged more harshly than Wotan’s greed. To summa­ rize briefly, the androcentric model ofdevelopment, usually considered the norm, privileges separation, individuation, and achievement, espe­ cially during adolescence and early adulthood. Since the gynocritic model of development, which privileges relationships at the same time as personal achievement, differs from the male paradigm of sacrificing or ignoring relationships while concentrating on achievement, the fe­ male model has been considered a less successful story. A female who aspires to achievement, however, is also seen as unsuccessful, and often as abnormally aggressive, for the male paradigm requires that a female be a docile companion for the achieving man, maintaining most of his social relationships for him until he has time to pick them up after he has established himself in his business and career. Certainly not all females, in life or fiction, nor all males, follow the same pattern of development. To develop the reading that follows, however, I will rely on the paradigms of male and female development presented by Carol Gilligan in a text that has been widely discussed in the past decade, In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development. Gilligan cautions readers that her arguments do not neces­ sarily define a female voice: ‘The different voice I describe is character­ ized not by gender but by theme” (2). Nonetheless, the predominant cultural characteristics of male and female development as Gilligan has presented them seem to me quite useful in understanding the critical division in reading Thea’s character as selfish or generous. Much of the tension between androcentric and gynocentric pat­ terns of development arises from the assumption that the pattern of development for most males in our culture is the norm by which every­ one is judged. Studies by Jean Piaget and Lawrence Kohlberg, based primarily on young males, assume that children learn relationships early in life in closenesswith the mother and family; then as children develop, they learn to separate, to identify individual rights, and to settle disputes by calling on the rules...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 257-274
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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