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Gender issues The purpose of this work is to discuss the gender issues raised in the two literary works namely 'The Sun Also Rises' by E. Hemingway, and 'Wise Children' written by Angela Carter. The two works are very complex in their reading and implications, and thus it will be of interest to see, compare and analyze the ways the authors represent problems of gender, sexuality, and the related issues of identity and social boundaries. The common feature of both books is that the authors were able to describe the paradoxical nature of sexuality (gender), which is not always connected with the traditional ideas carried by the society. The books are interesting to be compared in the sense, that they both give the reader new implications as for the role and the issues of gender in the modern society. Moreover, they often shock the reader with the way they see the role of gender and the way it can be used in terms of self-identification of the characters. The principal common feature of the two novels is that the issue of gender is directly related to the issue of self-identification. The period, in which Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises was written, was directly related to the time when masculine power was losing its meaning, and with the understanding that male part of society was facing deep crisis, female part of the same society acquired opportunities for development and conquering top positions.
Male always needed female in order to define himself; while female are not supposed to lack, male penis is not supposed to be essential or extra. This line can be traced in both books. However, Hemingway was writing his novel in somewhat different light. His novel has become a very truthful display of the processes which were taking place in the society in his time; moreover, he was able to deny traditional opinion that penis is the principal sign of male identification. The story has become the bright illustration of how the process of re-thinking manhood takes place, not being narrowed to the association with physical trauma. The two different forms of manhood which Hemingway was able to depict can be called hard and sentimental; however, there is still question whether sentimental can be supposed to be manhood at all. The phallic wound is the central symbol and around this symbol the gender issues' discussion goes; this wound can even be called the symbol of losing this manhood.
Jake's wound is the meaning of lost male potency with which society connects phallic symbol. Jake appears to be the person, for whom the issue of gender means the lost potency which cannot be recovered, and which has divided his world into the old and the new one. Jake is the representative of the new male consciousness; this wound is the instrument through which author shows his physical deficiency, which implies that he is deprived of his authentic male substance. (Hemingway, 1926) He is shown as the person who is deprived of the main thing which identifies male gender and makes it different from female; moreover, this is the means of putting the question of whether male gender is still hierarchically higher, or whether this hierarchy depends on this very physical organ' presence (or absence). The argument here is that on the one hand, man should not be identified by the presence of penis only, and on the other hand, the superiority of women is becoming so much more evident in the modern society, that Jake's physical wound threats absolutely erasing the border between men and women with penis remaining the only sign of male self-identification. This anatomical wound becomes the source of cutting them from their own virility which is also the source of male social and cultural power; thus masculinity here can also be seen as the unfulfilled desire, the satisfaction of which without the cut organ is absolutely impossible. The issue of gender being associated with physical organ is very deep in Hemingway's novel.
The similar line is seen in the Wise Children written by Carter; however, the difference is in the fact that she was trying to determine the level of not male, but female identification in the modern society. The author's principal implication is that a woman striving for finding the meaning of self-identification should find a new basis for it. Identical twins Nora and Dora have become the characters through which Carter primarily showed the way women can remove themselves from the traditional representation of the female gender by blurring themselves. The twins clearly realize the identity (external identity, of course), and their female identification is shown through making public confused in their external identities, while they themselves use this confusion for re-affirming their inner female identities. Their female gender identity is the power which they use for their sake, and they understand that as long as they have the knowledge of their identities, they will be able to control them. In relation to gender issue, Carter was able to expand the definition of the female identity and to move it from the standard roles and stereotypes which were usually associated with female gender, especially in terms of motherhood and marriage.
Actually, we see that the common line in both novels is the desire of authors to show both male and female gender identities in the new light far from stereotypes. The society started to re-consider gender roles which is reflected in both Carter's and Hemingway's novels. Carter unravels the patriarchal role of women to which we are used, she shows that in the modern world the female (as well as male) identity is absolutely tenuous and does not have any strict borders. Showing the way Nora and Dora change their roles to have sex with one man, who does not see any difference between them Carter ruptures strict woman definition; she also shows a surplus, which can exist in the female identity world, where she can create new definitions of herself. The common idea of the both novels is that male reproductive organ is not the ultimate signifier of male or female identity. '...I lay awake thinking and my mind jumping round. Then I couldn't keep away from it, and I started to think about Brett and all the rest of it went away.
I was thinking about Brett and my mind stopped jumping around and started to go in sort of smooth waves. Then all of a sudden I started to cry. Then after a while it was better and i lay in bed and listened to the heavy trains go by...and then I went to sleep.' (Hemingway 1926, pp.38-39) This is the excerpt from the Hemingway's novel. It is shown here as the continuation of the Carter's line as for the re-consideration of the gender identity as it is. The argument here is whether a man with such wound as Jake's can satisfy the beloved woman physically and sexually The traditional societal stereotype would say NO, but again we face the expansion of the boundaries which both Hemingway and Carter were trying to show us. When Hemingway writes about Cohn, whose physical masculinity is complete, but whose inner world is far from the traditional male world to which the one has been used for centuries one sees another side of male gender; the same argument is implied here who of the two men is closer to the male identity: the one having kept his masculine potency and organ but displaying sentimentality, substituting real life experience with literature, reading, believing in romantic love, or the other, trying to keep his masculinity despite the fact of losing his amputated organ? Simultaneously, the question posed by Carter is whether the woman not being wife and not having children, letting her participate in open incest and replacing her sister during the wedding, playing the role of the bride with the second woman observing the event from aside, can be supposed to be a woman? The answer given by Carter is positive. She re-evaluates the institution of marriage and motherhood traditionally connected with female gender, showing it as the event which easily loses its sacredness and actually carries no meaning in defining gender relations.
It is even more interesting to see the way Carter shows motherhood. Dora and Nora adopt children; the importance of this event is in the whole rethinking the roles of mother and father in relation to gender; this is another proof of the way Carter expands the boundaries of gender identity in her novel - "We're both of us mothers and both of us fathers.... They'll be wise children, all right' (Carter 1991, p. 230) While the fact of giving birth to a child cannot be supposed to be gender independent, the roles of mother and father are shown as no more limited to biological aspects of gender. Moreover, the positivism of this interchange is stated as the perspective for the children to develop their own identities far from traditional stereotypes. Conclusion The works of Hemingway and carter, described in this work, are very interesting for showing the gender issues in the new light apart from biological identity. The core of the issue is how closely the biology and gender related are. Both authors show common line in stating that physical gender does not determine gender identity while Hemingway's Jake is physically impotent, Cohn is castrated without physical amputation but through his attitudes to the environment. Simultaneously, Dora and Nora appear to show their female identity not through traditional aspects of motherhood and marriage, but through changing and interchanging these identities in the play which has been created by them.
While speaking about gender phallus has always served as the ultimate determinant of female and male origin, both novels deny this statement showing the reader that gender in the modern world is too tenuous notion; moreover, the roles which traditionally were connected with specific gender are no longer strict. Gender is re-evaluated and re-considered as not a biological phenomenon, but rather the phenomenon social and cultural. Gender appears to serve the instrument of self-identification, but it works separately from biological appearance. The novels are interesting taking into account that they follow similar lines but for two different genders and thus described different roles which appear to be attributable to any gender in the postmodern society. The main conclusion to be made here is that gender is being distanced from its biological essence, and is more defined by the inner world of the person, the desires and strivings of this person; it is essential thus to look at the person through the prism of his (her) individuality and not through the standard stereotypes the society has created in relation to gender. Works cited Carter, Angela. Wise Children. New York: Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 1991.
Hemingway, Ernest. The Sun Also Rises. New York: Scribner's, 1954.
Research essay sample on Gender Issues