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Gender Roles

.. tly, as is evident in her writing. This image of perfection can be seen in Cammys description of Patty Ann, “Patty Ann had her special expression again, the kind that made folks say she was the best. That made people not notice the rest of her was just skin and bones. Her face was just perfect..” (Hamilton 93).

This image of fragile perfection is what has kept women (especially those of beauty) from being perceived as equal or intelligent. I was surprised to see this image so obviously presented until I realized it was necessary for the character to function properly within the story. However it is still obvious that one of the oldest female stereotypes exists in full force within the character on Patty Ann. In addition to this doll-like quality, Hamilton shows us the insecure underbelly of her character. Patty Ann shows throughout the book how much she fears what others think of her through her attitude.

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She has a tendency to be rather mean at times because of her insecurities and it serves to distance her from many people in her life. Hamilton uses Patty Ann to demonstrate the perceptions people may have of girls and then allows Cammy to digest Patty Anns short life in order to debunk them. The image of Patty Ann while she is alive and Cammys view of her after she is gone differ greatly, which serves to remove the validity from the very stereotypes Hamilton is presenting. Edward Bloors Tangerine presents us with a gender bias we encounter more commonly in TV sitcoms than in literature: that of the athletic, mean spirited, adolescent male. Eriks tirades and terrors are well documented in the book, and though I will not rehash them I will say that they are tragic. Bloors character is menacing and torturous towards his little brother for his own amusement and spite.

Eriks ability to cover his tracks and allow everyone to believe he is a “normal” young man turns him into a conniving villain in this piece. Erik fits the jock/bully role perfectly and Bloor amplifies this by using Pauls voice in his writing. Paul deems Eriks goals as “The Erik Fisher Football Dream” and even comments on his love life. “I guess Paige and Tina want to date football players, so these two will do. Erik and Arthur want to date cheerleaders, so these two will do” (Bloor 39).

Erik now is shown to us as a materialistic social climber with no regard for anyone but himself. The egotistical Adonis we now see serves as the villain to the sensitive and humble Paul. Bloor does this because to the modern reader the dominant male character is very easy to hate, what with his well-documented oppression of every other major group he encounters. Bloor further stereotypes the Fisher family, but for a very different reason than the other authors I have discussed. He is attempting to satirize our stereotypes of the nuclear family through the over-the-top nature of this family.

This is an approach that I have not encountered and found most enjoyable. Bloor has a tendency to write many of the family interactions in a rather tongue-in-cheek tone, which adds humor to the story and allows us as readers to laugh at the ridiculousness of our own preconceived notions about what a family “should” be. By showing us the augmented version of our stereotypes Bloor hopes to show us how silly they truly are. Walk Two Moons, by Sharon Creech is a book that I believe presents a very well rounded and complete character in Sal. She is a warm and intelligent girl and Creech does not encumber her character with the pitfalls of any evident stereotypes as far as I can see.

She interacts with her environment in a logical and intelligent way, and at times, such as when her mother lost her baby, demonstrates amazing strength. It appears that Sals strength is derived from her family, which is a very endearing feature. This is probably why Creech employed this characteristic, in order to make Sal someone we would want to know and care for. It is important in this book for Sal to be someone the reader can relate to because she is not only a central character but also a storyteller. We must trust and care for her in order to feel the emotions Creech is trying to evoke.

Sals charming, simple humor and perseverance through tough times make her one of the only characters we have encountered whom I feel is truly a complete and noble person. Creech does an excellent job of getting into her psyche and displaying it to us throughout the story without becoming overly dramatic or “sappy”. Creech uses Sal to show us the human spirit that can exist within a good and intelligent person, regardless of their sex or social category. All of these books deal with gender roles, either unwittingly or in order to display them as falsehoods. They present to us a reflection, however warped it may be, of the world we live in and the perceptions inherent within it. In order for us to recognize and deal with these ideas, we must continue to discuss them through real-life situations or literature we encounter.

Only by dissecting obvious examples of these biases will we ever be able to abandon them. Censoring books such as these merely avoids the problem and allows future generations to go on clinging to the same stilted social values we fault now. Each author presents to us an image of the world and then displays the principles they hold dear by controlling their characters within it. It is by analyzing these images and principles that we will be fully able to understand the views present around us and thereby form a more educated one of our own. Ernst wrote, “..changes in childrens books often come long after they have been seen in reality” (76).

We as teachers have a responsibility to dialogue these notions with our students so that they will have the insight to write about it in the future. Bibliography Bloor, Edward. Tangerine. New York: Scholastic Inc., 1997. Coman, Carolyn.

What Jamie Saw. New York: Puffin Books, 1995. Creech, Sharon. Walk Two Moons. New York: Harper Trophy, 1994.

Ernst, Shirley B. “Gender Issues in Books for Children and Young Adults.” Battling Dragons. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1995. Sachar, Louis. Holes.

New York: Frances Foster Books, 1998.


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