In Our Time Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1555 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 0  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Sports - Women

Male-female relations are wrought with difficulties in Hemingway's work. Jake Barnes' war injuries render him impotent, preventing him from consummating his love for Brett Ashley. Brett's love of independence precludes her from experiencing genuine intimacy and all her romances become lopsided. Like the Sun Also Rises, the stories in Our Time take place during a time of tremendous transformations of gender roles in Western culture. Women's suffrage had recently become standard throughout Western Europe and North America. Industrialization and urbanization also changed the ways men and women related at home and in the public sphere. In addition to gender role differences, the World War One era altered lifestyle habits, patterns of human migration, and methods of cross-cultural commerce and communication. Improved means of transporting goods and services meant increased cross-Atlantic trade. The American participation in the Great War had signaled a new era of globalization that facilitated trans-Atlantic migration. Large waves of immigrants from Europe crossed the Atlantic to live in the United States, while great numbers of Americans like Jake Barnes and Mr. And Mrs. Elliot expatriated to Europe. These issues all affect the ways men and women relate in Hemingway stories, because social issues invariably affect gender roles. Furthermore, Hemingway seems preoccupied with the concept of masculinity and many of the relationship problems Hemingway explores can be traced to the author's definition and portrayal of masculinity. Communication breakdowns, lack of intimacy, and disrespect are all symptoms of overarching problems related to gender roles and norms.

TOPIC: Term Paper on In Our Time Assignment

None of the tales in Our Time contains as exemplary a female character as Lady Brett Ashley. Epitomizing the transformation of gender roles in Western societies during the early 20th century, Brett is sexually liberalized and undomesticated. She cuts off relations with Jake because she values sexual relations, and she initiates casual sex encounters with man like Pedro Romero. Her independence and her being in charge of not only her own destiny but her own sexuality make Brett a remarkable character. At the same time, her independence hinders her ability to form egalitarian relationships with men. Unable to tame her or turn her into a domesticated female, men like Jake, Robert Cohn, and Mike Campbell cannot become close with her. Brett also has no close female friends. Her loneliness is palpable by the end of the Sun Also Rises, and Hemingway seems to suggest a slow acceptance of females like Brett Ashley. Her masculine name mirrors her lifestyle habits, which are stereotypically masculine such as pursuing members of the opposite sex and willfully pursuing her desires.

Brett stands in direct contrast to the females depicted in Hemingway's short stories. Mrs. Elliot, Nick's mother, the Native woman in "Indian Camp," and the wives in "Cat in the Rain" and "Out of Season" are all passive, pained, and docile women. Like Brett, they do not enjoy intimacy with members of the opposite sex. Yet because they fulfill typical roles for females, women like Cornelia Elliot do maintain close ties with their female friends. Same-gender friendship and bonding is a common thread throughout the in Our Time tales. Men and men bond through drinking, fishing, and hunting: stereotypically masculine activities. Women bond with stereotypically female activities like chatting. The same-sex friendships draw attention to what heterosexual relationships lack: relaxed relating, a sense of closeness, shared interests, and having fun. The wife in "Cat in the Rain" mentions her need for a more vibrant marriage, one that includes fun-filled activities. Without their needs being met, the women in Hemingway stories remain dreadfully unsatisfied emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. Their husbands fail to see their wives as valid equals or as partners in friendship. The husband in "Out of Season" exemplifies the disrespect many men show their wives by literally banishing her from his presence. Carrying the fishing poles not only symbolizes the distance between man and wife but also signifies her subservient and slave-like role in the relationship. Therefore, relationship problems in Hemingway stories can be traced to a misogynistic worldview. For the same reason why Brett has trouble finding a truly equal partner, so too do all the women in Our Time.

Hemingway's men cannot seem to get over outmoded gender roles, norms, and stereotypes. Jake seems mentally prepared to accept Brett for her unique spirit but is physically unable to meet her needs. His impotency becomes a symbol for the death of masculinity: a thematic trend in Hemingway's work. Jake gives into Brett: following her around, forgiving her transgressions, and fulfilling her whims. His behavior is depicted in ways that emasculate him further, as men are stereotypically the master of the female. The men in Our Time act in those traditional roles, ruling over their wives and not respecting their needs or desires. Mr. Elliot, like Jake, grows physically impotent. His virginity prior to meeting his wife underscores his inability to meet the needs of women and precluded him from finding heterosexual intimacy. His impotence manifests in his career, too, as his friends leave him for a younger and therefore more virile poet. Moreover, the masculine ideal for Hemingway is the bullfighter, the hunter, or the warrior: not the poet. As an aspiring poet, Elliot becomes further emasculated and impotent. The impotence of men prevents them from physically fulfilling the women in their lives, rendering their relationships bereft of sexual intimacy. Impotence also affects the men's self-esteem, as sexual potency is linked with male self-confidence.

Men make up for their sense of inadequacy by belittling their wives or otherwise attempting to maintain dominance in the relationship. For example, Dick Boulton in "The Doctor and the Doctor's Wife" challenges Nick's father's integrity. Mr. Elliot takes out his hurt feelings not only on Dick but also his wife. Dick's insults struck at his self-esteem and the source of his masculine pride. Instead of sharing his true feelings with his wife, the husband fails even to tell her exactly what occurred. Nick's father masks his shame by asserting control over his wife. Suggesting physical aggression by fondling his shotgun, he lies to maintain dominance over his wife. Although infinitely forgiving and compassionate, Nick's mother cannot possibly pierce through the wall of miscommunication that her husband has firmly erected. Hemingway shows how such dysfunctional and misogynistic communication patterns are perpetuated, as Nick follows in his father's footsteps and ignores his mother's request to see him.

The "Cat in the Rain" husband similarly denigrates his wife's desires and dreams, which she expresses willingly. Her dreams also morph pathologically from experiences that might engender true happiness to simple material goods that mask her deeper desires. Like Hubert Elliot, the husband in "Cat in the Rain" also fails to treat his wife like a human being. He complements her hair and other superficial features as if she were a doll. Mr. Elliot also cannot come up with real reasons to respect his wife and admits to forgetting why he married her in the first place. The men in "Out of Season" and in "The Doctor and the Doctor's Wife" more extremely negative views of women, treating their wives more as slaves than human beings. Misogyny and the oppression of women by men is symbolized in the birthing in "Indian Camp" when a score of men control the act of childbirth, the one area of life in which women prevail over men.

Misogyny and unequal gender roles within relationships create the miscommunication problems and a dearth of intimacy plaguing the characters in Hemingway's stories. Women are not viewed by men as viable partners either as friends or as companions. When women attempt to bridge communication gaps they are silenced, as the doctor's wife is or banished physically like the wife in "Out of Season" is. Sexual intimacy is also a source of trouble for the men and women in Hemingway's stories. Men who feel… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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