History: E212-R_Rhys

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Assigned: "Mannequin" (2437-42).

1. Who are the young "mannequins" aside from Anna, and how does Rhys's story develop the relationship between commercially viable "genres" (i.e. types or varieties) of femininity and the individual personalities of the store mannequins who are paid to embody and demonstrate those types? Are the characters reduced to such stereotyping in the service of fashion, or do they resist it?

2. Anna is the main character, and her presence brackets this short story at both ends. How is she described at the story's beginning, and what purpose does the description serve? The narrator says that Anna gets her new job because of her legs — they gain the approval of Madame Veron's "sweeping glance." How does the rest of the narrative distance us from (and perhaps, at times, implicate us in?) this reductive way of looking at the women in the story?

3. How do you interpret the story's concluding paragraph, which runs, "All up the street the mannequins were coming out of the shops, pausing on the pavements a moment, making them as gay and as beautiful as beds of flowers before they walked swiftly away and the Paris night swallowed them up"? Is this a positive, vital ending, or do you see it as conveying a somber and dehumanizing sense of the mannequins' lives in Paris?

Edition: Abrams, M.H. et al. The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Volumes 2A-C. 7th edition. ISBN 2A = 0393975681, 2B = 039397569X, 2C = 0393975703.


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