“To liberate ourselves and each other” : reading the female community in the fiction of Sylvia Plath, Mary McCarthy, and Toni Morrison.


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In this project, I analyze the portrayal of female community within the fiction of three American women writers: Sylvia Plath, Mary McCarthy, and Toni Morrison. I am specifically concerned with comparing the depiction of female community within white and Black female writers’ works. The introduction to this project establishes a theoretical background for understanding white and Black writers’ visions of female community. The first body chapter considers Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar alongside Mary McCarthy’s The Group and focuses on how each novel either encourages conformity to patriarchal standards or accepts divergent expressions of femininity. The second chapter considers two novels by Toni Morrison: Beloved and A Mercy, and it explores the coexistence of fragility and power within the female communities Morrison depicts. The conclusion to this project reflects on the implications of reading the two chapters together and offers paths forward for scholarship on this topic.



Sylvia Plath. Toni Morrison. Mary McCarthy. Female community. Female friendship. Feminism.