A Feminist Criticism Of Proof English Literature Essay

“ Proof ” is a drama by David Auburn, modern American drama -writer. The drama was produced for the first clip at May 2000. Five old ages subsequently Auburn adapted the drama for the screen, and the film “ Proof ” starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Anthony Hopkins, and Jake Gyllenhaal was besides produced. This research is focused on the drama but some mentions on the film can be helpful besides. The aim of this research is to supply the feminist unfavorable judgment for the drama.

“ Proof ” : feminist unfavorable judgment

Feminist unfavorable judgment is a sort of reader-response unfavorable judgment reflecting the perceptual experience of the proper interpretative community. The common sentiment Tells that feminist literary critics prefer texts back uping feminist thought, and the female characters are of more involvement than male characters and masculine images. This point of position has a just sum of sense but it does n’t match to the general construct of feminist unfavorable judgment. As the feminist motion in general, feminist literary unfavorable judgment is concerned with the adult females rights every bit good as their contemplation and word picture on the literature. Feminist unfavorable judgment examines nit merely female characters but their topographic point in the literature, the writer ‘s attitude to male and female characters, and societal tendencies related to the adult females rights and reflected in the fiction. The stereotyped reading of gender functions in the media is besides the object of feminist unfavorable judgment. The scientific discipline, particularly the math, is one of the domains considered as a traditionally male field. The superb female mathematician can be instead interesting character for the feminist unfavorable judgment every bit good as other characters in the “ Proof ” .


The chief character of the drama, Catherine, is a immature girl of the superb mathematician. At the beginning of the drama she is merely out of her 20 5th birthday. Her life was n’t excessively long but she has experienced a personal play already. She gave up the college and the outlooks for single success to take attention about her male parent Robert, superb mathematician agony from mental unwellness. This is an grounds of true love to the male parent, which characterizes Catherine as a individual with loving psyche. A hebdomad before her twenty-fifth birthday Robert passed off. Here starts the new phase in Catherine ‘s life and the secret plan of the drama. Catherine analyzes herself and finds she is emotionally drained with the long old ages of attention of her male parent, besides, she regrets about her derelict instruction. She spent several old ages apart with the society and now she has to populate the societal life once more. Two new people force Catherine to return to the society: her sister Claire and the former pupil and protege of her male parent, Hal. However, one idea dominates on all the jobs: Catherine suspects she is every bit insane as her male parent was.

The chief machination of the drama is centered on the brilliant, radical math cogent evidence found in the notes of the dead scientist: “ a mathematical theorem about premier Numberss, something mathematicians have been seeking to turn out sinceaˆ¦ since there were mathematicians, fundamentally. ” Catherine claims she is an writer of this cogent evidence, non her male parent. Truly, Robert was the echt mathematician in his immature old ages: “ He revolutionized the field twice earlier he was 22 ” . However, during his last old ages he was mentally unstable and could barely develop the new radical cogent evidence. On the other manus, Catherine ‘s making seems to be evidently deficient for such cogent evidence: her higher maths is purely self-taught. Claire and Hal do n’t believe Catherine is an writer of the new cogent evidence.


Michael Billington from “ The Guardian ” writes that “ Proof ” is a work of a craftsman non an creative person ( Billington, 2002 ) . He means that Auburn uses many popular platitudes and standard state of affairs in his drama, therefore the drama is largely entertaining. However, Auburn touches many of import and deep subjects and depicts them in sudden, humourous mode. The subject of mastermind and lunacy in the drama balances between the image of nutlike professor and the calamity of Dr. Frankenstein. The love to the math, particularly to simple figures, adds the wit to the drama. The belief in the people when they are down, harmonizing to Walter Kerr, is one of the ruling subjects in the drama. At last, the romantic love of two talented mathematicians supports the machination and provides the opportunity of happy-end in this narrative. However, the feminist unfavorable judgment should take in attending two female character of the drama.

Catherine and Clair: two sides of one endowment

At the first glimpse it seems that two sisters oppose in the drama.

Catherine is a chief character, so she has to be attractive for the audience in some manner. Certain, the audience feels sympathy to the miss, which sacrificed her instruction and hereafter bearer to nurse the mentally unstable male parent. Her endowment and willing to deep cognition besides make her attractive character.

Clair is the negative character in the drama, unlike Catherine. Clair is autocratic, manipulative, selfish, shockable businessperson adult female – at least for her sister. Clair sells the household place without confer withing Catherine, she even dictates to set milk in the java, so she behaves deflecting.

It is interesting to analyse both characters in the visible radiation of traditional adult females functions in the patriarchal society. The sisters are more alike that it seems for the first glimpse. Claire is besides talented in math – sufficiency to be the successful currency analytic on the Wall-Street. It is of import that her fiscal support made the last yearss of their male parent composure and comfy. She was n’t near his bed, but she paid the measures. However, the writer ‘s attitude to this character is chiefly negative. Probably the ground is that Clair is an independent modern-day adult female, who places the personal bearer before the household.

Unlike her matter-of-fact sister, Catherine has all the understanding by the writer and the readers. Her function of voluntary nurse is more traditional for the patriarchal society. Despite her ain endowment, Catherine ever needs male support – foremost from her male parent, so from Hal. She is weaker than Claire and it makes her positive character in Auburn ‘s drama. Therefore, it is obvious that strong and independent adult female is more likely to be the negative character presents than weak and embarrassed one.

Catherine: female mathematicians

The character of Clair ca n’t surprise the audience because this type of adult females is familiar for everyone. The female mathematician is more unusual character. Catherine ( and her paradigm Sophie Germain, celebrated mathematician ) should turn out that mathematical endowment is n’t limited by gender. Despite the parts of legion adult females to the math scientific discipline, including the work by Sophie Germain on the Fermat ‘s Last Theorem, adult females are still viewed as the exclusion instead than the norm in mathematics. Auburn made his chief female character a math mastermind but at the same clip he depicted her weak and down. The ground of such word picture can be purely commercial. Carol Schafer in her article writes the followers:

“ Despite his pseudo-feminist focal point on adult females ‘s capacity to understand higher mathematics, David Auburn offers merely a lame and rickety challenge to patriarchal authorization in Proof Any menace to popular perceptual experiences of adult females as being incapable of accomplishment in Fieldss customarily dominated by work forces is delusory, and the drama ‘s popularity and its legion awards expose a corporate avowal of patriarchal hegemony by the American populace. ” ( Schafer, 2006 ) Schafer proves that true women’s rightist drama ca n’t accomplish the commercial success among the conservative American society. The success of the film “ Proof ” is as indirect grounds of Schafer ‘s thesis. The power of stereotypic perceptual experience of the mathematicians is so important that some critics even consider Jake Gyllenhaal to be excessively fine-looking for the mathematician.

Therefore, despite the effort to reject the stereotypes, Auburn merely proposed them in different signifier to accomplish the commercial success.


The drama “ Proof ” by David Auburn can be an interesting object for feminist literary unfavorable judgment. The chief character of the drama is the female mathematician mastermind. At the first glimpse it seems that Auburn supports the thoughts of feminism and adult females equal rights. However, the indirect factor – the comparing of two sisters, strong and weak – makes the functions of adult females in the drama more traditional for the patriarchal society. The strong and independent sister is a negative character, while the chief female character is weak and demands male support. It proves that conservative American society ca n’t appreciate the drama about true women’s rightist characters, so the power of stereotypes in the modern-day society is important.