Gender In Literature

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1 ‘Literature can create and consolidate dominant ideas about gender, but it can also criticise and undermine them.’ Substantiate, refute or modify this statement with reference to at least two texts drawn from different modes. Although many people are lead to believe that ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ are the same thing, there is a distinct difference. Sex is the biological aspects that make people male or female, something that is not a choice but merely the biological structure of that person. Gender, however, is ‘patterns of sexuality and behaviour imposed by cultural and social norms’ (Toril Moi, 64). The same goes for the words 'masculine' and 'feminine.' As Moi continues to say; ‘femininity is a cultural construct: one isn’t born a woman, one becomes one’ (64). These social and cultural constraints have defined gender stereotypes and some have become the way of thinking for many people, such as the idea of women being subservient to their husbands, or the idea that ‘women are more likely to be poor and men more likely to be rich’ (Michael Ryan, 101). During this essay I will explore whether literature consolidates these stereotypical and dominant ideas about gender, or whether it greatly questions and criticises them. Cloud 9 is a play focussed on the issue of gender and identity. It is filled with stereotypical characters, particularly in Act 1. Indeed, the first lines that the character of Betty says are; ‘I live for Clive. The whole aim of my life/ Is to be what he looks for in a wife./ I am a man’s creation as you see/And what men want is what I want to be’ (Churchill, 1). Churchill shows these dominant ideas about gender throughout the play, with references to the women being ‘delicate and sensitive’ (3) and the men and boys being manly and brave, ‘it’s manly of you Edward, to take care of your little sister’ (8). This Act is about patriarchy as the

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