Construction Of Gender In Atwood's' Oryx And Crake And H.g Wells’ The Time Machine

The idea of gender is something that is consistently examined by writers. Most see it as a subjective concept using their characters to show how their cultures both understand and represent being either a man or a woman. Many writers create characters who act in a certain manner to show that in most instances, the accepted idea of gender ends up dominating and undermining one's gender as compared to the other. The following paper will analyze the construction of gender in Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake and H.G. Wells The Time Machine by exploring how the society as well as culture both influences and impacts on the identity of the men based on the constructed ideas of femininity and masculinity.

In Oryx and Cake, Atwood outlined the instability as well as artificiality of masculinity as well as femininity which results in flexible sexual and gender boundaries. Atwood describes the effects of society and discussions on the psychology of both men and women in line with the accepted ideas of femininity and masculinity (Atwood 35). Atwood uses the characters of Oryx and Jimmy the effect of conditioning a child's thoughts begins from a young age based on their gender differences. For instance, Jimmy is continuously shown a constructed idea of masculinity by his father. His father was always encouraging him to use tools that would ensure he became more practical as he grew up (Atwood 41). Here, Atwood attempts to show that for Jimmy's father, being sensible and reasonable was a positive indication of masculinity. Displaying emotions and crying was seen as something that only women did. This element was evident when Jimmy's mother leaves. Jimmy is in despair over his mother moving out of their home, but in spite of this pain, he struggled not to cry (Atwood 73). To him, showing this emotion would only have been possible if he had been a girl.

The differences between men and women are apparent with Jimmy's father's comparison between a woman's attitude and character with the weather which is often unstable. When he describes his wife, Jimmy's father argues that women can be confusing because they are at one time hot then turn cold at the next instance. He further points out that while they might be important, they are for the most part uncontrollable (Atwood 17). Thus it is accepted that women are not only mysterious but also generally unstable while men are the complete opposite as they are firm and decisive in their attitude and words. Jimmy's father supports this stereotype by arguing that a man's perspective is often never questioned or mentioned. All it takes for a man to be calm, even as a child, is merely to tell him to remain calm and the issue is solved (Atwood 19). In another case, Jimmy's father once again speaks about the lab technician's gender sarcastically describing her as 'his right-hand man'(Atwood 59). This was a joke that he regularly told Jimmy as a way to point out all the ways that she was not a man even though Jimmy must have realized this. In this regard, masculinity is constructed as both ultimate and superior, exempting them from any weakness. Men are projected as entirely in control of their actions and emotions. They are also logical and practical while women are either emotional or driven by sentiments. This emotional nature prevents them from adopting a calm and reasonable approach to anything they are doing.

Jimmy's parents were both employed at Organ Inc Farms working in capacities as a genographer and microbiologist respectively. However, Jimmy's mother sees genetic engineering as a concept that does not align with humanity. She continually criticizes genetic engineering, referring to it as something that is not only immoral but also goes against the natural way of life (Atwood 64). This reason leads her to quit her work, leave home and her family and become a part of the protesters' group. Jimmy's father recognizes the main cause for her leaving but instead of understanding her, he accuses her of shaming and embarrassing him. He argues that his wife’s action of leaving reflected negatively on him as a man (Atwood 72). This perception is even though Jimmy's father had a sexual relationship with Ramona, his lab technician, whom he later moves into his house. Ramona and Jimmy's father constantly engage in instances of sexual intimacy which leave an impression in Jimmy's mind that women should only be treated as sexual objects to support the man's image (Atwood 74).

This perception leads Jimmy to begin showing an interest in various things linked to women and sex from a young age. For instance, he starts having sexual dreams and seeing women not as real people but rather as bodies there to serve his physical needs (Atwood 67). Jimmy is heavily influenced by the relationship that exists between his parents which clearly outlines the feminine and masculine sexual bias and stereotyping. Over time, he starts to copy the roles taught to him at school with his friends. The performance of these attributes is representative of gender aspects which show the man as the oppressor and the woman as the one oppressed (Atwood 68). Atwood describes Jimmy's upbringing as characterized by an evil father and a mother who was expected to remain righteous all the time. His mother constantly complained and blamed his father for everything wrong that occurs. On the other hand, Jimmy's father expects that his mother would remain respectful and submissive (Atwood 69). Jimmy's idea of his mother and the role that she is supposed to play is affected by the sexual desire he has for his school teacher as well as Ramona.

The social construction of gender is also seen in The Time Machine as he describes the two races of the Morlocks and the Eloi. Wells presents an idea of the future characterized by a human race which takes on two different paths. One is made up of the Eloi, who while being beautiful are mostly docile and lacking in worth. The Eloi do not have any ambition only wishing for their needs to be met (Wells 19). On the other hand, the Traveller describes the Morlocks as masculine and darker. Their physical strength is evident in their primary role, which is to take care of the various industrial elements found in society. Wells points out that because of this strict division in functions, it becomes difficult for the human race to grow and develop. For instance, when the Time Traveller first gets to the future, he begins to wonder about the changes that might have occurred to humanity to make it lose its manliness. The Traveller describes how the world has slowly turned into an inhuman and become more powerful (Wells 23). Masculinity is related to strength and proposed as an essential quality of being human. Additional evidence occurs with the traveler's interaction with the Eloi. The first of these is described as a graceful and beautiful creature but has a weakness (wells 24). The type of prettiness linked to the Eloi is slowly equated to a lack of mental and physical strength, an assumption that supports gender inequalities.

The Elois are seen as people who are pretty but little with characteristics and a personality that can easily be related to children. They do not have any facial hair; instead, these creatures have a graceful and gentle nature and beautiful hair (Wells 21). Society primarily accepts such elements as gentility, beauty, and seeing them as desirable characteristics for women. In this regard, it is possible to form a link between femininity and the attributes of the Eloi. In the same way as Ramona in Oryx and Crake, a woman's beauty and a quiet and submissive personality are often considered as the most important in many societies. The Time Traveller begins to recognize that the Elois are not intelligent. Instead, they seem naive because they do not fear strangers. They did not make any effort to communicate with others outside of their environment (Wells 23). This element ties in with the long-held perception that women were not only less intelligent but also more helpless when compared to men. The Eloi do not present a strong ability to either protect themselves or increase their intelligence which further supports the perception that the Eloi are feminized.

The description given of the Morlocks sharply contrasts with the innocence attached to the Eloi portraying an exaggerated type of masculinity. According to the Time Traveller, Morlocks do not only have a sense of humanity, but they tend to feed on the Eloi who are often defenseless. The harsh descriptions given of the Morlocks relate to how many people view men (Wells 34). Society does not usually associate men with any type of softness, similar to how Jimmy learned that crying and being vulnerable was not something equated to being a man. In the same way, how the Time Traveler described the Morlocks is similar to how many would define a man since society does not associate men with beauty. On the contrary, an acceptable man is one who is not only firm but also physically intimidating. Additionally, the Morlocks were able to separate themselves from the Eloi because they were reasonable (Wells 39). They were not only skilled at developing different types of machinery but also had the capability of operating it. Recall in Oryx and Crake, Jimmy's father argued that one element that separated men from women was the man's ability to remain logical and calm regardless of the situation. The Morlocks seem to represent this aspect of being rational thinkers which have traditionally been applied to men.

Establishment of the Morlocks as masculine and Eloi as feminine provides insight about their relationship. The darkness element found in the Morlocks and the resulting shapeless and ugly forms linked with them forms a contrast with the light colors attached to the Eloi. The darkness of the Morlocks subsequently leads them to enjoy dominance and control over the Eloi (Wells 45). The Morlocks have a parasitic characteristic seen as positive as it helps them to gain strength as well as vitality over the weaker Eloi. Traditionally, society places men in a position where they dominate women who are expected to remain submissive. This aspect of dominance was also present in the relationship between Jimmy's parents in Oryx and Crake. Weena, who takes on the role of the Time Traveler’s companion, is portrayed as naïve, weak and relatively childish when compared to the traveler’s intelligence. The reader first meets her when The Time Traveller saves her from drowning which further supports the stereotype that women can only survive if they are under the care and protection of men.

In conclusion, Margret Atwood's' Oryx and Crake and H.G Wells' The Time Machine provides a close examination of the impacts of social constructions of gender. Both books agree that in most societies, women are expected to be weak, submissive and to some extent unintelligent. As in the case of Jimmy's mother in Oryx and Crake, when women begin to stand up for their beliefs, the men often accuse them of attempting to humiliate and embarrass them purposely. Instead, the acceptable aspect seen in both novels is that men should be firm and logical. Jimmy has learned from his father that it is unacceptable for men to cry or show emotion regardless of the pain they are going through. The darkness seen in the Morlocks in Wells’ The Time Machine is seemingly celebrated as it allows them to dominate and hold power over the weaker Eloi. As a whole, the two authors suggest that these social gender constructs are critical because their impacts are felt over an entire community.

Works Cited

  • Atwood, Margaret. Oryx and Crake. Vintage Canada, 2009.
  • Wells, Herbert G. The Time Machine: An Invention. Broadview Press, 2001.
16 December 2021
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