How to See in the Dark: An Alternate Approach to Feminist Literary Theory in the Form of a Novella

Document Type


Publication Date



Arts and Humanities | English Language and Literature


Elizabeth Johnson-Miller, English


How to See in the Dark is a novella that explores a take on feminist literary theory in which the protagonist, Nina, is suppressed by family and gender roles; but she is the creator of her own circumstances, rather than being imposed upon by societal expectations. The novel is told through a series of memories as Nina reflects on her childhood, her relationship with her parents, her college years and adult life, and her relationship with her husband and son. Nina believes that traditional gender roles within the family are necessary for stability and happiness. Thus, she boxes herself into an environment in which she cannot obtain individuality or self-assurance until she breaks away. Told non-chronologically, the novella explores the complex functioning of the human mind and memory, and illustrates the idea that the past may influence the present, but it does not have to dictate it.

I chose to write a novella for my senior thesis as a challenge to myself. Already feeling confident in poetry writing, I wanted to learn how to create dynamic characters and complete plots and how to work through a piece of substantial length. Completing this project has given me great confidence as a writer of multiple styles and forms and prepared me for the world of writing after college.