No matter the gender, the use of feminism in literature will empower and educate the readers of the true potential and power women possess. Throughout Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, the subject of feminism is portrayed quite clearly. The author, Cheryl Strayed, stresses the capability of women whenever possible, and these situations are truly focused on when the protagonist deals with challenges. Ultimately, the author demonstrates the true power a woman has especially when she overcomes her obstacles.
The reader can depict Strayed as a feminist, not just based on her gender, but also she shows the character as willful and persistent throughout the trail. Surrounded by men and a few women, Strayed does not waver from a challenge even though she is a woman who is hiking alone (Strayed 88). To be specific, despite being the only single female hiker, Strayed finishes the Pacific Crest Trail alongside the male hikers (Strayed 309). The author portrays women as independent and capable people, as she demonstrates through the protagonist, showing that the character does not need the company of her ex-husband or friends on her adventure. In spite of being alone, Strayed illustrates that she has not lost her identity and continues to endure what her journey mapped out for her; Strayed came to realize that solitude was acceptable (Strayed 189).
As Strayed gains more hiking experience, her fellow hikers give her the name of the “Queen of the PCT”, as she was the only female to hike alone with no one to guide her across the Pacific Crest Trail (Strayed 296). Alone or with companions, the author proves that women are capable of survival on their own (Strayed 88).
Although Strayed is a feminist, she recognizes her femininity more than ever as she is an unaccompanied female ringed by male hikers. As a result, Strayed not only acknowledges the powers that women have, but also the dangers that women face (Strayed 286 – 287). To be specific, Strayed does not coward to men, even if she feels particularly delicate.
No matter the gender, men and women all have there moments when they feel most vulnerable. Thus, despite the fact that the author shows feminist ideals, the author contradicts herself in relation to the exposure to sexuality. Perhaps that vulnerability is from someone’s sexuality being tested. Indeed the author portrays women as strong individuals, however, the character’s sexuality is tested due to her history with men in the past and her encounters with men on the trail. To be specific, Strayed has had many sexual encounters, where she can now disregard the feelings – like many males – and she is “capable of being detached when it comes to sex” (Strayed 131). This situation can negatively impact how the reader views women, and how the reader changes perception about men. For example, the novel depicts males as sexual objects which contrasts other works of literature. That is to say, by symbolizing men as sexual objects does not redeem how women have been seen in literature in the past (i.e., women perceived as sexual objects). As an illustration, the author emphasizes the protagonist’s many sexual encounters to show that women can be as promiscuous as men. Ironically, although Strayed is a feminist, her views and actions regarding her sexuality, is one of retaliation rather than acceptance. Moreover, the author also shows women as fragile when it comes self-dignity, opposing her feminist ideal. To further explain when Strayed came across Jonathan, Strayed vowed that she would not have sex with him, in order to do so, she did not bring a condom with her (Strayed 255). Unfortunately, later that night, the two of them had sex (Strayed 257). As a result, the author contradicts her feminist viewpoints by demonstrating that women have no self-control.
Although, the author opposes some of her feminist views, Strayed’s sexual encounters with the male hikers proves that even though women have power, they can face frailty. In the process, the character learns to accept her sexuality and welcomes that aspect a part of her new life. All-in-all, the author continues to portray women as courageous and uses weakness as a positive learning tool.
In literature, role plays and backstories enhance the quality of the overall novel. In Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, the readers are able to depict certain roles that men and women play. Whether the women are alone or with companions, these specific roles heighten how women are perceived. As previously mentioned, the author clearly demonstrates that the majority of the male characters play the role of sex objects. On the contrary, there are a few male hikers who help Strayed along her journey. To be specific, a man named, Albert, helped Strayed lighten her backpack, thus making Albert play the role of guide (Strayed 106). In the last blog, the protagonist, Cheryl Strayed, plays the role of an unwilling hero. Moreover, the role that Strayed’s fellow female hikers and the supporting female cast play is the role of support system. For example, Susanna helps Strayed by massaging her feet, an act of support and respect (Strayed 244). Thus this action reveals that the role of the female companion is one of sisterhood in order to help survive the wild together. Hence, feminism is the voice of all women and is meant to be passed on through all forms of communication.
Throughout the novel, Strayed reaches out to me not as a reader, but also as a female leader. That is to say, as I finished this novel, I was motivated by Strayed’s story and felt that I have the power to survive any circumstance on my own. Cheryl Strayed, was able to use feminism in her novel to empower readers no matter the gender. As in the words of Gloria Steinem, “a feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.”
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Lundquist, Molly. “Wild (Strayed).” Wild – Cheryl Strayed – Summary – Book Club Discussion Questions. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 May 2017.
“Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail.” Pacific Crest Trail – Home. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 May 2017. <https://www.fs.usda.gov/pct/>.
“Quotes About Feminism (2829 quotes).” (2829 quotes). N.p., n.d. Web. 12 May 2017. <http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/feminism>.
Strayed, Cheryl. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. New York, NY: Vintage , 2013. Print.