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Discuss the Ways in Which Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx and the Comfort of Strangers by Ian Mcewaneither Reinforce, or Seek to Disrupt, the Identification of Femininity and Passivity and/or Masculinity and Activity.

  • Date Submitted: 04/06/2010 01:13 PM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 44.9 
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‘Women readers gain access to the seductive taste of power only at the cost of identifying against their own interests as women.   The active, judging consciousness within most texts, as we have seen, is male; the female is almost always the passive object of the narrative gaze, to be judged or praised or punished.’ Pam Morris.
Discuss the ways in which any two texts either reinforce, or seek to disrupt, this identification of femininity and passivity and/or masculinity and activity.


In this essay I will be focusing on two texts, BrokeBack Mountain by Annie Proulx and The Comfort of Strangers by Ian McEwan. I will be looking at how these two texts both reinforce and at the same time disrupt the accepted identification of femininity and masculinity. It is generally accepted that we associate passivity with femininity and activity with masculinity. Of general literary convention Daniel Chandler (1998) says,
We may note that within this dominant representational tradition the spectator is typically assumed not simply to be male but also to be heterosexual, over the age of puberty and often also white. In Ways of Seeing, ‘men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at` Berger, John (1972) Berger argues that in European art from the Renaissance onwards women were depicted as being ‘aware of being seen by a [male] spectator.`  
The male gaze is a very typical gender stereotype, men actively look at women whom remain passive, and women are simply objects to be looked at. McEwan reverses this idea and makes Colin into the object to be looked at by Robert, Caroline and Mary, disrupting in the process the identification of masculinity with activity. With this in mind I will show how both texts seeks to both reinforce this notion and also refute it. I will show throughout both texts how each character either reinforces their own identification of gender or disrupts it.
Robert’s gender is exaggerated, for example he is over...

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