Analysis Of How Multi-Dimensional Is Literature In The Way It Represents Each Sex

Women are inferior to men. This is the simplest and most common outline for the roles woman and men have in society. Throughout all of time this notion was practiced, and still is. To this day the sexes are not equal; however there has been progress for equality and women and men have more flexible roles. In the play Macbeth by Shakespeare, Lady Macbeth seems to display the opposite character that of a woman of her time would have. The novel Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, shows how the Nigerian society exposes the many roles woman and men are expected to play. Trevor Noah’s Born A Crime looks into the South African society at the time during apartheid and how men and women were affected or expected to act. The last novel, Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John green has an interesting and non-obvious presence of gender in a society that is more relatable to the youth. These pieces of literature are all multi-dimensional in the way they represent each sex, and how they operate in society.

Macbeth takes places during the 15th century, at a time where women did not have many rights and were extremely oppressed. Since the ruling of the Catholic Church was dominant and very influential, the society in terms of gender was extremely unequal. “Marriage was a symbol of a very crucial bond where men had the ultimate power and control in the relationship”, however Lady Macbeth contradicts this rule. At the start of the play Lady Macbeth manipulates Macbeth into killing King Duncan, she challenges his masculinity, calls him a coward and says “When you durst it” “then you were a man”. This means he could not be a “real” man unless he murdered King Duncan. If he killed him and became King this would make his masculinity concrete because he was courageous enough to kill and take what he wants. Lady Macbeth easily contradicts the typical role of a woman for her time. She has cruel intentions and plans the whole murder herself. Women, being too fragile and innocent should not be able to devise such a sinister plot. Lady Macbeth is brutal and evil in this light and she takes the role of the dominant partner. Eventually throughout the play, the tables turn and she begins to be eaten up by guilt and loses her mind, and Macbeth ends up being the one who carelessly murders whoever could stand in his way. It is as if a woman could never be that vicious from the core and that lady Macbeth had to mask her true self to get what she wanted. This applies for Macbeth too, that perhaps he needed a good push to finally take his place as King, and only a true man could do so, and to properly define a “true” man, he would need to perform remorseless acts such as murder. Furthermore it perpetuates the notion that women are too sensitive to do anything that evil, and it is natural for men to be this savage. In fact Lady Macbeth never lay a hand on anyone, she actually did not kill anyone yet the thought of her participation is what broke her, this is the fragile nature that women are associated with in society. Although these two characters switched roles in the beginning, the play implies that their true nature was in fact the one that the society of that time had labeled them to be.

The state of the Nigerian civilization in Purple Hibiscus is in wake of colonization and traditional and religious beliefs, that which are similar for the time of Macbeth. For example, the belief that women should stay in and take care of the house and the children, maintaining a level of beauty and submissiveness, while their partner does the hard work to support his female companion. From the sexist remarks that are made to the actual mistreating of women, it is easy to point out the female characters in this novel aren’t respected as they should be. Even with this unjust treatment women get, the male characters in this novel have an undeclared pressure that consumes them. The men have the expectation to have a good job, enough to provide for their family. They are meant to be strong emotionally and be there to protect the women in their lives at all costs. Eugene and his son Jaja feel this pressure. Eugene is a very successful and wealthy man, he adequately provides for his children and his wife. The Achike home is large and beautiful, in fact Eugene shows it off to the community while hosting many people at a time, this is to show that he is a “man of god” one who takes care of his community. His constant need to have everyone perfectly dressed, academically inclined and well-mannered is all to display his hard work. Father Benedict is a figure Papa Eugene must impress, this relationship between them exhibits how colonialism and religion play a part in his behavior as well as the African culture as they all expect a man to be a provider who is successful. Maybe this is why he gets so angry that he abuses his wife and children, physically and emotionally. It is a reflection of his manhood and his faith to Christ, and if he cannot keep his own family in check, he is not doing a good job, even if no one is there to see it. As much as it is a societal construct for him as a man to be mighty and superior, it is part of the culture too. It is something that has been instilled in him and his father and many generations before him. Generations after him too, as his son Jaja feels this pressure as well. Jaja always steps up to the plate when having to prove himself as a man. At every opportunity he was given to protect his younger sister, Kambili, he did. When she comes home with a painting of a Papa Nnukwu Eugene rips it to pieces and fills with anger. Of course Jaja confesses it to be his painting so that he can receive the inevitable beating that Eugene will ensue on the perpetrator. As Jaja understands it, it is his duty as a man to protect the women in his life. For a man to do this it shows his emotional strength, that a man should have. When Jaja sees his cousin Obiora running the house and taking care of the women who take care of him Jaja says, “I should have taken care of Mama. Look how Obiora balances Aunty Ifeoma’s family on his head, and I am older that he is. I should have taken care of Mama.” Here you can see that he realizes how much he actually has to live up to and this is a moment that sticks with him. However, when it comes to more serious situations how can this be fair? When Jaja’s own mother murders his father, her son takes the fall, imprisoning him for 3 years. Jaja’s life is just beginning, he doesn’t deserve to go to jail for his mother’s crime. In any other scenario this would seem unjust and almost backward but in Nigeria at this time, it seems it would’ve been considered more heinous that a delicate air-headed woman could do even think about doing something like this yet perform such a horrible act.

Jaja’s mother, Beatrice is the type of woman expected in Nigeria, one who simply stands next to Eugene, her husband, looks perfect, has no opinion and blindly follows orders. Mama Achike is abused by her husband Eugene if she steps out of line. He goes so far as to abuse her that he hits a table over her pregnant belly and she miscarries... this is not the first incident and this is all because she did not want to see father Benedict when they went to see him as she felt sick. Eugene deems this as sinful and beats her to “cleanse” her of her sins. This toxic trait of masculinity comes from a more religious perspective, rather than a societal one. The Bible clearly mentions this, “...wives should submit to their husbands in everything” and the idea of “cleansing” your wife is the husbands duty. This dynamic in the relationship of the man being strong and dominant while the woman is submissive, is a stereotypical one that is in fact quite common. We see that it is normal because when Beatrice is brutally beaten by her husband and does not show up for lunch, her children calmly eat their food alone without asking any questions, this raises the prospect that this happens often. Beatrice herself even comments that “a husband crowns a woman’s life.” And since she believed this it could indicate why she didn’t just leave Eugene and opted to killing him. How could she leave the perfect example of a real man? The African culture promotes prejudices against women, and welcomes the abuse of wives, this applying to children too, by husbands as normal. Ifeoma is a character that opposes women’s roles in society, not only does she have controversial opinions of the Nigerian government but she is educated and employed at a university. This makes her a threat because women are supposed to rely on their male counterparts to provide for them financially, when she is in fact single and provides for her two children all by herself. Perhaps the idea is that if a woman is uneducated and stays home all day she won’t ask questions and be defiant. She can easily be controlled when needed, and this is all that Ifeoma is not. She constantly challenges the government and shares her opinion of how corruption is abundant. When she learns lecturers are being fired for being “disloyal” to the government she is still fearless and stands by her opinion, saying “When I speak the truth it becomes disloyalty.” This shows that she is aware that they are only trying to scare her into being quiet, not that she is disobeying any rule. Her feminist views are clear when she mentions how when females graduate “their husbands own them and their degrees”. And detests that Eugene buy her a car if she “please him”, which would mean watering down her views. Something that she would not do, even though her own car was close to scraps of metal. Her defiant and resilient character towards the cause of bettering the Nigerian ruling and how women were treated is the opposite of what women in society are expected to be, especially in the Nigerian society at the time.

Trevor Noah’s Born A Crime takes place during the apartheid era. If the rights of people of color aren’t respected, surely women weren’t either. Trevor Noah’s Mother exemplifies one who wasn’t. When they lived with his mother’s boyfriend Abel, he began to abuse her. He hit her unnecessarily and it was always obvious that he did this in reaction to his own insecurity. Trevor’s mother was not a traditional Xhosa woman, she wanted to suck the juice out of life. She even moved out of her home with her mother so she could experience life, and was adventurous and even a little crazy sometimes. She was a smart woman and her views on gender were logical. When she had started making money and working to support the family this made Abel feel threatened. He would beat her simply because he did not feel “man” enough as he was not the one bringing in the income, when she ran Abel’s mechanics business for him. His mother understood that he felt unstable and she even told Trevor that “You can still be a man of the house and earn less than your woman. Being a man is not what you have, it’s who you are.” Which taught him that, that behavior isn’t the correct one to have. It didn’t make sense when she stayed with him. Being an African woman, who is dating an African man meant African traditions would integrate their way to their relationship. The pressures that Abel was feeling was most likely due to the fact that he grew up knowing that the man of the house, and when he didn’t fulfill that, his self-esteem was probably shattered at this point. However not once did Trevor’s mother displays a woman any less than strong and resilient, she had taken care of Trevor on a her for a while, even with his biological father she had taken full responsibility for him. She had never needed a man to fulfill her life. The fact that a Xhosa woman such as herself didn’t conform to the traditional submissive wife narrative, like staying at home all day cleaning shows just how free spirited she was. She did not believe in the inequality South Africa was facing and having Trevor was in its self a protest to the unjust government. She worked and hard and was always hands on.

She was not bothered that Abel made less money but the fact that he sat on his bum all day, and got drunk was the issue, even though she let him be. He was so used to the one story that he should be the provider as the man, that he let it consume him and he remained bitter about it. That his mother, wasn’t apologetic about being the successful one, or in his eyes, disrespecting him as a man.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson has an unexpected interpretation on how women and men are expected to act in society. This novel focuses on two boys with the same name yet one is gay. will. He has an online relationship with a guy named Isaac. Upon reading this part of the book you wouldn’t expect him to be in love with another male because, outwardly he does not seem to like the idea of being affectionate, especially to girls. will grew up with a single mother and his dislike for being emotionally vulnerable comes from the fact that he has to be strong for his mother. His mother feels guilty for not being able to give him everything and to keep the family unit in tact he mostly pays for his own things to show that he is fine. He puts out this “I don’t care about anything or anyone” persona to the world and he believes that “caring doesn't sometimes lead to misery. It always does” This is a deeper reference to the absence of his father, and to him if he doesn’t care, it won’t hurt. It is obvious that he paints himself that way to show that he can function without a father and he actually does not give much thought into it. Will’s best friend Tiny, who happens to be large, is your “typical” gay. He dresses in extravagant outfits, is shamelessly vulnerable and sings instead of talks. The irony in this is that Tiny, out of the two homosexuals in this novel, is the most confident. He is the complete opposite of a man’s man, and he has no desire to be. Evidently when will talks to Isaac it is like any two teenagers in love, he becomes a different person with Isaac. This means will is capable of being vulnerable and affectionate, yet completely switches that side of him off with anyone else. Will struggles with depression and identity issues and it is to do with the fact that he doesn’t truly express how he feels. This is because he isn’t somebody you’d expect to be gay and he makes a bigger effort to be “normal” so he isn’t labeled as gay before he is labeled as will. Tiny is a bold burst of confetti, if one were to explain his personality, he doesn’t feel the need to live up to any construct because his friends just accept how is he and his school too. Social constructs are beginning to fall away with each new generation and that is why Tiny feels no use to hide who he is.

The novels and play that I have read this term all have common themes of gender and what society expects from each gender. Since many dynamics play into the way the characters act such as the date, time, religion, culture, and personal backgrounds of each character. And even though some characters don’t follow any expectations, they are still affected by stereotypes. Some of the novels were not made at the same time yet the themes of gender and how they live in society are very similar. This is a direct translation to our world today, that even though we’ve come so far evening things out there are still problems with what genders are expected to be.

13 January 2020
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