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Tuesday, April 24 • 10:35am - 10:55am
The Development Of Identity In Tillie Olsen's Yonnondio: From The Thirties

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In 1974, Tillie Olsen published Yonnondio: From the Thirties, an unfinished novel she had written forty years earlier. The unusual circumstances of the novel’s publication, Olsen’s choice not to revise the manuscript that was recovered, and the lack of an intentional ending have been criticized by some scholars. However, the novel’s fragmentation serves to describe the mindset of Olsen’s characters who are experiencing extreme poverty. Focusing on the character of Mazie specifically, this thesis traces her experiences as she enters early adolescence and struggles to comprehend violence and injustice in the world around her. While the family becomes increasingly ensconced in industrial labor systems, Mazie goes through intense delirium and daydreams as an attempt to escape her situation and process traumatic experiences. However, Olsen indicates that Mazie cannot escape the insidious poverty that permeates the Holbrook’s family life, leading the reader to understand that Mazie’s life will follow the same path of her mother, Anna. While characters like Mazie emphasize the importance of the struggle to develop autonomy and individuality, Olsen also indicates their need for a supportive community. Ultimately, Olsen’s novel indicates that the only feasible way to escape the degrading conditions of capitalism is through the development of a collective class consciousness. In a distinctly proletariat work, Olsen gives a multi-faceted description of the nature of poverty and sexism in characters who are both realistic and sympathetic individuals, as well as representations of their class.

Tuesday April 24, 2018 10:35am - 10:55am PDT
232 Karpen Hall

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