Masculinity

1 January 2017

Characteristics of masculinity and femininity are naturalised in almost every society, but differ based on diverse environments, values and changing time periods. In literature, these assumptions come to underpin the construction of key characters. * In Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet, for example, the setting of post- war Australia presents several conjectures regarding gender. Men, especially in an economic boom, were expected to help rebuild and drive the economy.

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As a result of this, in the 1940’s and 60’s, there was an intense focus on the proletariat and on physical labour; employment which revolved around a relationship with the tangible environment, engaging the tangible body. * Winton does not completely discount the physical realm as an essential part of masculine construction. In particular, he values the development of physical and emotional relationships between people, suggesting it help males to ‘find’ themselves and establish a sense of self.

This is particularly inherent in Winton’s style, employing rhetoric devices to allow reader to form particular connections within the novel. For example, Winton’s construction of Quick as a “lamb” draws on connotations of “the lost lamb”. This implies that, at first, Quick does not have a sense of masculinity nor a sense of self. It is through his relationship with the rest of “the herd”, especially with Fish, which allow him to establish these. * he has not merely constructed characters that are binary opposites of traditionalist archetypes.

Instead, he embraces their historical value and carefully constructs his characters to reflect this. However, to a greater extent, through his style, point of view and use of symbolism and language, they come to exemplify alternative assumptions. Oriel On Men: There was something wrong with men. They lacked some basic thing and she didn’t know what it was. She loved Lester, but a lot of loving him was making up for him, compensating. He was never quite up to anything. She knew he was a fool, but it wasn’t the same thing. Her father had been the same.

He was a kindly man, big and thin and soft looking, but without enough flint in him to make his kindliness into kindness. As a child she could tell that he thought well of people, but he never had the resolve to make his feelings substantial. He never did anything for anybody but himself. Like when he remarried. Oriel’s mother and Sisters died in a bushfire that razed the farm and the house. Her father was so broken by the event, that after she was ragged alive from the half—collapsed cellar almost mad with ear and shock and guilt, and after he’d killed his last pig to i her burns, it was she who nursed him.

She always had the feeling he would have just faded away, had she not mothered him as they moved from property to property on neighbour’s charity until she’d earned enough from kitchen work dairymuckjng to buy them a moth-eaten old tent to take back to their place and start again. …Oriel knew she couldn’t help being strong when she had such weak men to live with. Oriel continued loving her father, but she knew that loving a man was a very silly activity; it was giving to the weak and greedy and making trouble for yourself.

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