A Feminist In The Medieval Era: Margery Kempe

1401 words - 6 pages

Margery Kempe did something that many people (especially women) would not dare to do- she broke away from the identity that her society had molded for her. The Book of Margery Kempe is one of the most astonishing documents found of the late medieval era and is the first autobiography to have been discovered. Margery Kempe does not shy away from telling the story of the personal and intricate details about her adventurous life. It is hard to say what influenced Kempe to go through such lengths to have her book written. Many think she wanted others to understand and witness how difficult it was to live through the social norms and expectations as a typical wife and mother of the 14th century. Little did she know, her life story would travel through history and show how molding of society influences social norms and self-identification, which are prominent, combating issues today.
Kempe’s story has a typical beginning. She is married, soon thereafter conceives her first child, and goes on to give birth to fourteen more children. She assumes the responsibilities of a wife and mother whose position in the late medieval society is assured by the solid reputation of her father, John Burnham, and her husband, John Kempe. However, Kempe’s conventional story changes early in her life by an elusive interaction with Jesus that she experiences shortly after her first excruciating child birth. Women were expected to carry out the societal norm of a good wife and mother which meant staying home to tend to the family. As we’ve seen, this is the opposite of how Kempe wanted to live her life — she hastily became distinguished and recognized. Her autobiography explains her own efforts to dissociate herself from the covetous and restrictive values of what we now recognize as middle class life. The book displays the conflict between Kempe and the key figures of the late medieval world that were invested with spiritual and secular authority as well as with her husband and the people in her town.
Kempe was often oblivious when it came to the retort of her visions and interactions with Christ. Occasionally she would try to hold in her fit of tears to thwart her embarrassment in front of the townspeople, “…she would keep it in as much as she might that the people should not have heard it for noying of them,” (389). Often times, however, she would go to great lengths with her visions and not impede herself from acting fanatic and delusional in public.
She was so much affected to the manhood of Christ that when she saw women in Rome bear children in their arms, if she might witen that they were any menchildren, she should then cry, roar, and weep as though she had seen Christ in His childhood. (389)

Not only did she run up to women who held a child that she believed to be a boy and caused an emotional scene, but oftentimes, she would kiss the baby as if he were Christ and she was worshipping him. This behavior is not only characterized as...

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