Representations of gender in literature

Discuss the representation of gender and / or gender in the undermentioned two novels:The Nine Guardiansby Rosario Castellanos andKiss of the Spider Womanby Manuel Puig.

The Nine GuardiansandKiss of the Spider Womanare both novels that provide penetrations into both the building of feminine and masculine functions in society, and besides item out, in different ways, how these familial traits tend to attest themselves in their societies. First, both books tackle the issue of gender ambiguity, in so far as how the effects of non-conformity to assigned gender functions affect the reading that other people have of these peculiar people. InThe Nine Guardiansthis is shown through the representation of “ old maids ” , whereas inKiss of the Spider Woman,it is the function of Molina and how his psychological science, as a adult female, straight contradicts his biological function as a adult male. Second, both novels are concerned with how this feeling of guilt and the internalization of “ Otherness ” is manifested through the characters. InThe Nine Guardians,this is particularly prevailing in the manner in which the little miss feels toward his brother, as she takes on the emotional luggage and the guilt of neglecting to fulfill his masculine demands. InKiss of the Spider Woman,Molina ‘s internal battles are manifested through both his location in prison, and by the confessional series of duologues he has with the political captive, Valentin.

In bothThe Nine GuardiansandKiss of the Spider Woman, muliebrityis treated in a fabulous manner. In the former, while the masculine characters toil the Fieldss and travel to war, female characters are seen more as captive to the superstitious notions and the troubles associated with this. The chief character from which the beginning and the terminal of the narrative is told, a nine twelvemonth old miss, inside informations thecreative activityof muliebrity, and of the nature of the female function in this peculiar portion of Mexico. The miss ‘s female parent negotiations about one such character from the annals of feminine myth:

“ Josefa Arguetto, his girl, sombre and commanding, instituted the usage of the whip and the usage of the stocks. She empowered a magician to maintain us jump to her desire, and no 1 could traverse her but a great injury ever bechance them. ” [ 1 ]

Indeed, this character of thefemme fatale,a stereotyped female character, whose great power crossed with her great muliebrity transforms her into a symbol of evil incarnate, occurs throughout these two books. The usage of the words “ commanding ” and “ empowered ” in the above quotation mark suggest that this is a powerful and independent adult female. However, because of her independency, she is finally punished by the masculine universe of myth that dominates: “ By her orders many mahogany and cedar trees were felled and she caused all the furniture of her house to be made in those lumbers. ” Her retaliation is exacted by the fact that “ She died without issue, consumed by her ain spinsterhood. ” [ 2 ] Spinsterhood in this sense could be read as leting people an reading sing gender functions and gender. Because the “ old maid ” or the “ old amah ” remains unattached, her muliebrity remains unbridled. In kernel, and with respect to the 2nd text, she remains a possible “ panther-woman ” or else, a enchantress with powers of black magic and thaumaturgy.

This ambiguity is represented even more exhaustively in Manuel Puig ‘s dramaKiss of the Spider Woman.In it, he describes a movie where thefemme fataleemerges in concurrence with the complexnesss of Molina and Valentin ‘s genders. The “ panther-woman ” is cardinal to this subject. Namely, she represents precisely the same as the old maid in Castellanos – she is the independent, strong female character who is finally punished for her ain desires and her absence from the traditional dealing of patriarchate represented by matrimony. The drama concludes with Molina depicting the terminal of the movie: “ ..things get all muddled up and when the psychoanalyst arrives she ‘s at that place on her ain. He tries to take advantage of the state of affairs and throws himself at her and kisses her. And right here she turns into a jaguar. ” [ 3 ] The character of thefemme fatale, who avenges the psychoanalysts progresss by killing him ends up deceasing herself: “ The animate being is scared off by the constabulary Siren, it dashes out into the street, a auto runs over it and kills it. ” [ 4 ] So retaliation of male laterality is assured as the movie ends, but, in the drama which offers its analogue, the result is well more equivocal.

The differentiation between gender and sex are blunt and reveal many disagreements inKiss of the Spider Woman.Merely after Valentino and Molina have slept together, Molina attempts to explicate his ain sexual orientation, and in making so, helps to chase away the impression of the homosexual as a genderless, homogenized mass portrayed in the same manner as the Indians are represented by the female parent inThe Nine Guardians:

“ Valentino: One question.. Physically, you ‘re as much a adult male as I am.

Molina: Ummm…

Valentino: Why so do n’t you behave like a adult male… ? I do n’t intend with adult females if you ‘re non attracted to them, but with another adult male?

Molina: It ‘s non me. I merely enjoy myself like that. ” [ 5 ]

Therefore the whole nature of homosexualism is in itself made equivocal by the fact that Molina believes that he is a adult female. He continues by stating that “ Since you want to cognize about it… the bang is that when a adult male embraces you you ‘re a small spot afraid. ” [ 6 ] This makes Valentino angry, and he suggests back: “ Who put that thought into your caput. That ‘s all dirt. ” and adds: “ It ‘s non what you feel. Its what you ‘ve been taught to experience. Bing a adult female does n’t do you.. how shall I say… ? A sufferer. ” [ 7 ] This treatment plays with an of import differentiation – as to whether Molina ‘s masochism is exploitatory, or merely, as Molina suggests, “ what I feel. ” [ 8 ] In footings of gender representation, when ambiguity between gender and biological sex is introduced, the character is portrayed as debatable.

The old maid is determined by the absence of a male figure in her life, so the really fact that she herself embodied these masculine traits, but had non the biological or emotional deepness to command these masculine impulses, that forced her into the grave. “ Spinsterhood ” , in Castellanos ‘ book, is frequently seen by the characters within it as innately negative in its intensions, and the presence of a adult male, it is seen throughout, is indispensable in keeping the psychological care of the female mind. But what is interesting is that these words are themselves spoken by a female character. Christopher Rollason suggests that the predicament of old maids are explored throughout Castellanos ‘ work, and proves to be an ideal metaphor for how adult females are subjugated by a society when they fail to suit into the rigorous patriarchal codification. He remarks that “ The neighbour Amalia becomes a spiritual bigot, the carrier of a unfertile and dogmatic Catholicism. The fate of Aunt Francisco, who runs her ain farm, might look kinder, but she winds up demented. ” [ 9 ] Indeed, old maids in Mexico, as commented upon by Castellanos through the characters themselves, and because they traverse the stereotyped codification of matriarchal dependence on a adult male, tend to endure as a consequence of their supposed independency. Amalia negotiations about her troubles in suiting into the society that does n’t recognition her with a hubby. “ No, I did n’t get married or hold kids, and it was n’t possible for me to go a nun either. For old ages I ‘ve been ashamed of being a sort of faltering block, like a rock against which people trip as they walk. ” [ 10 ] So, Amelia ‘s job is non wholly due to how other people treat her, and of the troubles she has sing other peoples intervention of her as an inferior being. An interesting metaphor is provided when the small miss is depicting the farm:

“ In the fowl-run the Meleagris gallopavos prink their plumes while the ugly, sad females scratch for any worm. ” [ 11 ]

Bing inactive objects of desire force the adult females into functions of competition over the males that provide the novel with its activity. The small miss ‘s position is to a great extent tainted by the positions of other people. The despair with which the “ ugly, sad females ” look for their worm could easy be transferred to the society in which the adult females themselves live. What, nevertheless, Castellanos describes with even more psychological penetration is the procedure by which females themselves follow this function of subservient. Christopher Rollason suggests that “ She shows how the subaltern can internalize their subjugation and go confederates in their ain predicament. ” [ 12 ]

The internalization of this feeling that “ she ” is Other, is a subject that is prevailing in both plants. InThe Nine Guardians,the old maid internalises her jobs and feels like she is a waste to the other common people of the small town. She clearly feels like a hinderance when she talks about how she is a “ stumbling block ” and a “ rock against which people trip ” , and what is particularly interesting is that other people do n’t needfully experience this manner towards her. And it is exactly this job of the internalization and exploitation of females by females themselves that Castellanos focuses on by seting at the Centre of attending the little miss. One of the cardinal subjects that frames the action ofThe Nine Guardianscircles the relationship between the little miss and her brother, Marco. The book opens by speaking about this relationship in footings of power and the functions of muliebrity and maleness as it works in the society in which the novel is set: “ Mario looks at me as if I do n’t truly merit his attending, and shrugs his shoulders indifferently. I ‘m clogged with fury. ” [ 13 ] Marco ‘s heedlessness is therefore placed by the little miss on her ain shoulders, as though his avoidance of her is someway her ain mistake. She adds “ As usual, I take all the incrimination. ” [ 14 ]

Indeed, it is the internalization of this female guilt that Castellanos portrays so efficaciously by portraying the internal soliloquy of the immature miss. Although she is non to fault, it is the guilt and the fury that she feels towards how his brother feels.. a love that basically manifests itself as the agitation of self-loathing. Marco, who, harmonizing to the words of the forecaster is doomed to decease, finally falls ailment. The fresh concludes with the entombment of Marco. There are a figure of statements that provoke this feeling that the little miss is someway immaterial or so harmful to Marco. At the funeral she wears “ A black frock like vultures plumes ” [ 15 ] , and that, when asked whether she wishes to see Marco one concluding clip:

“ I turn my face off in disgust. No, no, I could n’t bear it. Because it is n’t Mario, but my mischievousness, that ‘s decomposing in the underside of the box. ” [ 16 ]

So, it is her “ naughtiness ” , coupled with her passiveness and finally, her muliebrity that places her socially in a place of subservience over the other work forces in the novel. The penalty that is exacted on adult females who refuse to experience this manner, in other words, who refuse to carry through the outlooks of their gender, are finally punished by the society in which they live. The fresh terminals with the small girl pleading. “ Mario is far off, and I want to inquire for his forgiveness. ” [ 17 ] Basically, the state of affairs of the female in Mexican society as empowered is seen as a place indefensible with the dominant traits of masculine laterality that prevail throughout the book through the mythology and statute systems of subjugation that proliferate the little rural community in which they reside. This subjugation is frequently exacerbated by the adult females themselves, as portrayed through the female parent herself.

Other characters who do n’t look within this rigorous codification are the Indians, who are seen throughout as inferior by the miss ‘s female parent and by the other characters in the drama. When Torahs are passed to educate the Indians, “ female parent leaps, and says passionately: ‘Fair? When he tramples on our rights, when he seizes our belongingss? And to give them – to whom? The Indians. He does n’t cognize them, he ‘s ne’er been near them and found out how they stink of crud and drink. ” [ 18 ] The intervention of the Indians is seen as a natural manner of life in the small town. But what is of import in this statement is that, whereas the anon. solon who brought the missive is assigned a gender “ he ” , the Indians are non granted that privilege. They are seen as a homogenised whole, without gender to stipulate them from one another. She remarks that “ they ” malodor, and how they are regarded, individually and entirely outside of humanity, merely as “ The Indians. ”

Overall, the impression of gender is explored by both authors on different degrees.The Nine Guardiansexplores both the complex feelings of guilt and subservience that the little miss feels sing the relationship between herself and her brother. The female characters that either fail, or else choose non to go a portion of the dominant patriarchal system at drama in the small town, and which manifests itself as a series of complex ideological codifications and premises, and finally rendered useless by the system that prevails. Therefore, any confusion between the narrowly assigned gender functions tend to be punished by the predominating mythology of patriarchate. InKiss of the Spider Woman,it is the ambiguity of Molina that is explored, and whether his subservience, masochism and muliebrity is a good thing if so, to be anything else is, as Molina suggests “ non me. ” Fictional characters without gender are besides explored. The Indians, who are demonized throughout and seen as beastly and simian by the Mexicans in Castellanos ‘ novel, are non even granted the chance to be seen as different on a sexual degree, tend to presume the function of “ Other ” in the same manner in which females who fail to play the right functions, such as thefemme fatalecharacter in the movie that Molina describes throughout the drama. Therefore, non merely is the function of females and the jobs associated with how these people fit into the outside universe brought into inquiry, but besides an issue that is brought into inquiry in both books is to make with the internalization of these functions and how these functions appropriate themselves into society, and so, whether these functions themselves should be changed or whether merely the ways in which these people are portrayed in society at big ( Molina is described by a guard as a “ deviant ” ) should be changed. The inquiry remains unfastened in both books as to whether either should be the instance.


Castellanos, R. ,The Nine Guardians( London: Faber and Faber, 1959 )

Leitch, V. B. ,The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism( London: W. W. Norton & A ; Company, 2001 )

Puig, M. ,Kiss of the Spiderwoman( Oxford: Amber Lane Press, 1987 )

Rollason, C. ,A Woman Schooled in Latin,from hypertext transfer protocol: // [ accessed 16/08/06 ]


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