The Bridges of Madison County and Kramer vs. Kramer are two films starring Meryl Streep, a well-known Hollywood actress. The heroines of the two films, Francesca and Joanna, impress the audience. Standing at the crossroads of life, they make different choices whether to stay at home or leave home to find a new life. Since the twentieth century, feminism has attracted more and more attention from scholars and researchers. The research theory of feminism tends to be more comprehensive, and its branches are becoming more and more specific and detailed. Nowadays, the in-depth study of feminism has penetrated into many fields such as literature, film and television, art and so on. This thesis will focus on the images of two heroines, Francesca and Joanna, in The Bridges of Madison County and Kramer vs. Kramer from the perspective of feminism, analyze the contradictions and confusions they face and explore the reasons for their different choices.
Key Words: feminism; The Bridges of Madison County; Kramer vs. Kramer
1 Introduction 1
2 Image Interpretation 2
2.1 The Bridges of Madison County 2
2.1.1 The Introduction of The Bridges of Madison County 2
2.1.2 The Image Interpretation of Francesca 3
2.2 Kramer vs. Kramer 5
2.2.1 The Introduction of Kramer vs. Kramer 5
2.2.2 The Image Interpretation of Johanna 5
3 Comparative Analysis of Francesca and Johanna from the Perspective of Feminism 8
3.1 The Origin and Development of Feminism 8
3.2 Similarities of the Two Heroines 9
3.3 Differences of the Two Heroines 11
3.3.1 Francesca’s In 11
3.3.2 Johanna’s Out 13
3.4 Further Analysis 14
4 Conclusion 16
In or Out: The Image Interpretation of Heroines in The Bridges of Madison County and Kramer vs. Kramer
Women who are at the edge of the patriarchal system have existed in the patriarchal society as “secondary” and “accessory” for thousands of years. Although the changes of the times have given modern women a broader world, the progress of the material society and the opportunity to receive education have expanded their horizons and awakened their self-awareness and self-seeking. However, with the emergence of this new trend, women’s embarrassment between self and family deepens, and it is difficult for them to strike a balance between the two, that is, to give up the self to play a traditional female role, which is called “good wife and good mother”; either abandon family, change the traditional female role. The two are considered imperfect, and both of them are defective livings state of women, so they both bring endless troubles and confusion to women living in different states. This is also the choice that every woman will face.
The article focuses on the heroines of the two outstanding film works, The Bridges of Madison County and Kramer vs. Kramer produced in the late 1980s, which is considered as the flourishing development time of feminism. Although the two roles, Francesca and Joanna, are both performed by the famous American Hollywood actress Meryl Streep, they make different choices which lead their life to two different ways when they face the same family dilemma.
2 Image Interpretation
2.1 The Bridges of Madison County
Robert James Waller, an American writer, published his famous short novel The Bridges of Madison County in 1992, which created a great sensation in society and the field of literature, also, it won the favor of film artists. Three years after the publication of this novel, the film of the same name, The Bridges of Madison County, adapted from the novel, appeared on the screen. Facing the opposition between love and family, the heroine, Francesca in the film finally chooses to be responsible for the family and gives up love after hard struggle.
2.1.1 The Introduction of The Bridges of Madison County
The Bridges of Madison County tells a love tragedy happened in 1965. That day, farmer Richard takes the children, Caroline and Mike to fair to attend the Agricultural Exposition. His wife, Francesca, stays at home alone. She has four days of her own time. Robert Kincaid, a photographer for National Geographic magazine, travels all day in an old car. He goes to the village where Francesca lives to shoot the Madison bridges in Madison County, Iowa. He asks Francesca to lead the way, thus, they meet. On the way to the Madison bridge, they talks about their marriage and family: Robert and his ex-wife has divorced, while Francesca leads a monotonous and quiet rural life with her husband, a son and a daughter, lacking passion, and is muddled all day… Two lonely hearts seems to have found their support. They have dinner at Francesca’s home. Along with the soft and melodious music, they can not help hugging and dancing together. During the short four days, they fall in love with each other deeply. Robert is going to set off again. He wants Francesca to go with him. However, Francesca does not want to leave the whole family in an incomplete situation because of herself. At the same time, she does not want to give up her responsibility to the family. They have to break up painfully. But Francesca’s love for Robert lingers in the latter half of her life. After Robert left, Francesca buries the love in her heart and never tells anyone about it. In March 1982, Francesca learns of Robert’s death. In 1989, Francesca also passes away. She records her story and leaves it to the world. In her will, Francesca asks her children to scatter her ashes near the Madison Bridge.
2.1.2 The Image Interpretation of Francesca
Francesca grows up in Italy. In her teenage years, she loves freedom and is full of passion and fantasy about life. She has a clear understanding of her personal emotional life and pursues beautiful and ideal love. When she was young, she had fallen in love with a university art professor, experienced a beautiful and romantic relationship, and ends up with her parents’ opposition. In fact, there is also Francesca’s own reason. Although she is as eager for romance as other young girls, her traditional ideas make her choose reality. The forced termination of the relationship gives her a profound understanding of the gap between reality and ideal. In order to live a reliable and stress-free life, she chooses Richard, an American soldier as her husband. “Richard offered a reasonable alternative: kindness and sweet promise of America.”(Robert, 1993) From this sentence, it is not difficult to find that the contradiction in Francesca’s heart has been solved in another way that she thinks is better: Richard’s kindness to her will give her material security, and the United States gives her beautiful fantasy, which gives her new hope for life. Life after marriage is not as passionate and romantic as Francesca imagines. She finds that Richard is only the object of marriage and lacks emotional and spiritual communication with her. The “sweet promise of America” turns out to be a dull little village, which is absolutely not she dreams of. Her passion has no chance to release, so she calms down and begins to do what ordinary rural women should do.