Consider how male and female characters are presented, and think about whether these portrayals are accurate and/or influential

Read the following and in the box in your own words answer the following statements.

Most would agree that what we read contributes to the formation of self-images that help to construct our identities. When we read, watch movies, or listen to music, girls can imagine themselves as women and boys can imagine themselves as men. Short Stories, poems, plays, and movies affect our ideas about who we are as males and females in our contemporary culture. In other words, literature is one of the homes of gender stereotypes. The stories that we read, hear and see– from childhood to adulthood– provide characters and events with which children can identify and through which we can consider our own actions, beliefs, and emotions. Gender Criticism “examines how sexual identity influence the creation and reception of literary works.”

Short stories are particularly effective examples of how males and females view and represent their worlds. The length and immediacy of fiction make it well-suited for communicating notions of gender, perceptions, and individual realities. For example, Ernest Hemingway described his writing as an iceberg. “There is seven-eighths underwater for every part that shows.” His works are notable for their lack of subjectivity – often very little attention is given to the characters’ emotions, conversations consist of little more than the characters’ own words, and descriptive details about setting and environment are remarkably lacking. In this way, he leaves the vast majority of the story – including the he outcome–to be inferred and interpreted by the reader.

By comparison, Kate Chopin, in her classic “Story of an Hour,” focuses intently on the subjective emotion of her main character, Mrs. Mallard. She literally takes one hour – a compact, fragment of time – and creates a much larger, more profound, representation of reality. Some argue that male writers tend to treat emotion as background, while female perspective such as Chopin use emotion and descriptive details to challenge conventional literary stereotypes in general, and stereotypes of women in particular.

Our reading choices are certainly affected by gender as well. One literary – ritic humorously developed “The Girl Cooties Theory of Genre Literature.” She notes that our tastes are impacted by our gender. For example, Doyle argues that Romances and similar stories are perceived as strictly female choices, while Westerns and Science Fiction are masculine in terms of audience reception. So, it would seem, Twilight and Nicholas Sparks novels have “girl cooties,” while thrillers and war stories – Tom Clancy and Vietnam War chronicler Tim O’Brien – are nearly girl-cootie free.

These are oversimplifications, but do be aware that stereotyping and gender-bias should not be underestimated, and many would argue are an important and rewarding subject to consider as you read literary fiction. At the very least, note who is – and isn’t – represented in your readings. Consider how male and female characters are presented, and think about whether these portrayals are accurate and/or influential

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