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Mata Hari was born in the Netherlands as Margaretha Geertruida in a family of four. Throughout her school life Mata Hari was known for her unique code of dressing as she came from a family that had riches in oil. However, 1889 saw to the bankruptcy of her family in addition to the death of her mother two years later. Afterwards, she joined school for training in teaching but the education was cut short as the headmaster interests in her resulted in a scandal. Eventually, she got married at the age of 18 to a 38 year-old Macleod. However, the two separated with Mata Hari relocating to Paris to become a successful dancer. Her personality in Paris was associated with perfumes, jewelry and the use of the Malay language (Rosenberg, para 4).
The name Mata Hari was thus inspired by the exotic dancing career that saw her perform in parties, operas and theaters as well as the need to cover up her background. On the onset of the First World War, Mata Hari was viewed as a spy due to her travel schedule that traversed international borders. Eventually, she was executed in 1917 by the French military for involvement in spy activities. The objective of this research is to examine the historical and fictional representation of Mata Hari and bring out ways in which the historical references have overshadowed the oppressive elements of her life as well as the portrayal of gender and patriarch.
The fictional character of Mata Hari creates the picture of the woman as a sex symbol that used her body to get information from friends and foes. To the fictional world, Mata Hari is an exotic dancer who is executed for being a double agent. She represents the female fatale and blamed for the death of an estimated 50,000 French soldiers. However, some depictions of the fictional character have been noted to embrace the human side of Mata Hari. For instance, the works of Rich Wilkes portray her as an innocent woman whose execution was as a result of handicaps in the French Army in terms of leadership. His works indicate that the execution was caused by frustration as the French Army had spent three years in the war without substantial results. Rich Wilkes introduces another character Vadim as a Russian soldier with whom Mata Hari is involved. This soldier however overshadows the character of Mata Hari as she ends up being associated with disappointing outcomes.
The historical references have further overwhelmed the negative aspects of the life of Mata Hari through art. The art concentrates more on the world war, for example, the works of Roy Allan depicts her in a compromising situation with a soldier in army surrounded by war illustrations (Martinez and Wilkes, para 5). The artistic representation of the fictional work also includes a meat grinder in the background indicating the context of her life that is assumed to have revolved around the pioneer war in the modern world. Moreover, her life is presented on the basis of her function of her as a spy.
Historical accounts focus on her ability to communicate and decipher codes and understand the chemistry of weapons. It details her competence that was utilized by armies as she could memorize maps, charts and illustrations of enemy and friendly sides. It also views the use of a fictional name and presentation by Mata Hari on moving to paris as move that caused her down fall. At the end of her life, fictional representations and movie are keen to bring out the fact that her sense of identity is violated as she gets a number for identification as H21. This is a clear denial of her right as a woman and human being. Moreover, most stories leave out the part of her execution as it is described as a death without a picture. Therefore, the fictional representation of Mata Hari is a clear indication of the neglecting the persecutions that she goes through in growing up and as a woman.
The historical representation of Mata Hari is described in the events of the First World War. It depicts her as a controversial character that was useful to the Germans as she delivered information as a spy. Her character was however used by the Germans to spread propaganda against the French. It is clear that historical records of the activities of Mata Hari pay little attention to her experiences. This is due to the fact that most records focus on her role in the war in working with the Germans and the French without reference to her cultural or personal background. The historical accounts give detail about her involvement with the military including highlighting her various movements during the war.
The role of Mata Hari in history is also shrouded in myth and shows the unappreciated position of women in espionage. Most of the historical accounts of her life also portray the woman in a controversial sense. This is apart from the works compared to the story of Edith Cadwell that treat Mata Hari as a spy hero. It compares the female spy to the contemporary working woman in a middle-level profession. In addition, the female fatale kind of character associated with Mata Hari implies that she is a character that conceals real identity and engages in immoral activities to make her way up the social ladder (White, p 8). The story of Mata Hari is thus created as a stereotype for the European woman of today. She is remembered as a pioneer for women in terms of class, racial and gender roles. It further depicts women as pure and feminine character of twentieth century although her background experiences are ignored. Historical records however acknowledge the fat that Mata Hari fabricated information about her background. It is apparent that the entertainment industry that she participated in contributed to the neglect of the patriarchal nature of her personal life. Although the impersonation was her own act, Mata Hari was compelled to create stories in order to meet the needs of her audiences.
In the novel by Yannick Murphy, Mata Hari is brought out in two dimensions. These include the vulnerable woman with a yearning for personal identity and alone despite being highly independent. In this account however, the difficulties in her life are considered including her terminated marriage and the death of her child. These are however overshadowed by the writer’s need to portray Mata Hari as in a heroic stature. The writer creates an extra-ordinary character that can be emulated by women. In addition, the sexuality of the character receives major focus with the indication that she was at a level beyond the established social norms. Furthermore, the writer brings out the idea that Mata Hari failed in her mission due to a child-like approach in her activities (Scutts, para 23). The experiences undergone in her childhood years are used instead to account for her insufficiencies rather than being used in justification of her actions. For instance, the book uses the words I walked across the sea that hardly relates to create the implication she survived by chance such that the patriarchal and oppressive nature of her background is not considered.
From the study, it is apparent that both fictional and historical references of Mata Hari have focused majorly on her role in the First World War as well as the position of the woman. For instance, fictional stories on her character have been noted to concentrate on her competencies as a spy and agent in the war. The historical accounts have further been noted to give less regard to the bad experiences of her past life resulted by the patriarchal society she grew up in. Therefore, the accounts in fiction and history have neglected the patriarchal and oppressive aspects of her life. The novel by Murphy has thus brought out the manner in which both gender and patriarchy are depicted in the novel.
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