Sample Scholarship Essays

Gender Roles

Gender Roles I have thought about many different ways to organize this paper and have come to the conclusion that the best way to approach the topic is on a book-by-book basis. My perceptions of the gender biases in these books vary greatly and I did not want to begin altering my views on each so that they would fit into certain contrived connections. What interests me most in these stories is how the authors utilize certain characters within their given environment. Their instincts and reactions are a wonderful window into how the authors perceive these “people” would interact with their surroundings and often are either rewarded or punished by the author through consequences in the plot for their responses. Through this means we can see how the authors expect their characters to behave in relation to their post in the world. We must be very careful as readers to judge these biases based only on evidence within the text and not invent them from our own psyche due to the individual world we know.

In Louis Sachars award winning book Holes, we see gender biases in many characters. The first and most obvious bias in this book can be found in the way Sachars characters address Mr. Pendanski, one of the staff members at Camp Green Lake. Many of the boys refer to him sarcastically as “mom”, and it is not because of his loving nature. Mr. Pendanski is neurotic about things the boys consider trivial and he has a tendency to nag them.

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Because Mr. Pendanski is portrayed as the antithesis of Mr. Sir, who simply drips testosterone, others view him as a female for his weakness. The fact that Sachar allows his characters to equate weakness with femininity, or more accurately motherhood, shows a certain bias towards the supposed strength that innately accompanies masculinity. This attitude is only furthered by the fact that the rest of the book as almost totally devoid of female characters other than the witch-like caricature presented to us in the form of the warden.

She comes complete with a vicious disposition and poisonous fingernails. The most interesting part of this bias is that the boys chose to name Mr. Pendanski “mom” in light of their own personal family histories. I think it can safely be assumed that not many of these boys had a functional relationship with their parents or they probably would not be in Camp Green Lake to begin with. These boys chose to place Mr. Pendanski, a whiny and unrespected man in the grand scheme of things at camp, in the role of mother.

They did not turn to the only woman present at the camp, nor the man who disciplines them each day, to fill their maternal needs. Instead they turn to the weakest figure in their lives and mock him by referring to him as a woman. This demonstrates to us that Sachar considers femininity a weakness in this world and has no issues showing us. As Ernst wrote, “How easy is it to relegate girls to second class citizens when they are seen as second-class citizens, or not at all” (Ernst 67). This point is only furthered by the fact that the only woman present is such a fairy tale character. She is portrayed to us as all but a sorceress and it can be assumed she has taken on this persona in order to survive in a predominately male post in a totally male dominated environment. Even in our class it was evident that many readers were taken aback by the fact that Sachar chose to make his warden a female.

And so it again can be seen that Sachar has imparted onto us a bias that a real woman could not function in this world so he had to invent a completely fictional and grandiose one. With all the other characters in the book appearing so human, it seems obvious he turned the warden into a beast because he felt he had to. In What Jamie Saw, by Carolyn Coman, gender bias shows itself in a new way. In this book masculinity and evil seem to go hand in hand. There is the character of Van, who is pretty much the same abusive man from every after school special and info-mercial we see during primetime, doing terrible things to a defenseless family. Then there is Jamie, who by my estimation is one of the meekest male characters I have encountered in a childrens book. Finally we have Earl, who is such a hollow character that I truly believe he is merely Comans “out” for this book and nothing more. He is the not threatening to Jamie and his family because he is not anything or anyone; he is simply the idea of a man.

He is not developed as a character nor does he give any insight into the situation he encounters and therefore can be disregarded as a tertiary character either passive or emotionally absent from the world around him. Van and Jamie however, serve a much more prominent and functional purpose. Van strikes me much the same way the Warden does in Holes. Although he is presented in a slightly less fantastic light, one cannot help but see him as the embodiment of evil and destruction within Comans world. This not only demonstrates a stereotype of men as violent, but it also is a necessity to the book because it does not ever actually detail the violence occurring in the book other than the opening. By making Van the animal that he is, we as readers have an easier time believing he is capable of the horrors inherent within this book.

He takes on almost a Neanderthal-ic feel as the book progresses and the lives of everyone involved become more complicated. I do not mean to suggest that power and masculinity always must go together, but Van most certainly is shown to us as the stereotypical dominant male from the start. Using his brawn to solve problems rather than his brain, Van is our worst nightmare of what a man is capable of becoming: a thoughtless, guiltless tornado of destruction. Coman uses these biases present in our minds to amplify her character and thereby increase the power of her story. The gender bias in Virginia Hamiltons Cousins is very obvious and straightforward in the form of Patty Ann, who is described many times the way we would talk about a porcelain doll.

Hamilton places on her character the two most common stereotypes women encounter: the image of perfection and an innate insecurity with themselves. She does this very blatan …

Gender Roles

Gender Roles Throughout history and in all cultures the roles of males and females vary. Relating to the piece of literature “Girl” written by Jamaica Kincaid for the time, when women’s roles were to work in the home. By examining gender roles, then one may better understand how women and men interact and how better to build relationships at home and in the world of business. At the time that this work was written, women mainly stayed at home and did housework while few of the very poorest households required the woman to work in an industrial job. Kincaid wrote of the specific roles and responsibilities that a mother would tell her daughter. By what she wrote, one can fully understand what was expected of a woman at that time and in that particular culture.

The object of examining gender roles is to answer the question why should women and men be equal and “Are there populations in which men and women are absolutely equal? Are there societies in which women dominate men?” (Gender 238) By understanding the culture in which this piece of literature is written, the gender roles and the rules of behavior for a woman, then the relationships between genders can be realized. The general myth about women and their gender role in the American society is that the mother works in the home and supports her man in every way. For each relationship, the people in that relationship must decide the particular roles that they will play. In the literary work “Girl”, Kincaid shows clearly that the woman’s role in this work was to serve the family and to work mainly in the house. The mother writing this story tells her daughter that “this is how you iron your father’s khaki shirt so that it doesn’t have a crease” (Kincaid 489). In this marriage, it is understood that the wife is to do the laundry for the husband.

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Today’s society does not always provide these clear roles since many women work a full time job and the house chores are a responsibility for both to handle. Though the woman is still mainly held responsible for the home. There should be a constant search for equality in gender roles. Kincaid explains how the man is working to bring home the money and the wife supports his work. By her ironing his khaki shirt, he is better prepared for work to support his family. Though men and women are supposedly equal, the roles they must play in a particular relationship may be unequal. Even though this work does not show a conflict, the girl to whom the mother is speaking may have a conflict with her husband by the time she is married.

This mother also may have an internal conflict that is not revealed in the work. Meaning that she may hold in problems that she has with the relationship because women were not supposed to reveal their feelings. Women are usually the ones who are more open in a relationship, but at this time in history women were to keep quiet in relationships (Gender 238). The conflict that will be revealed in the future is the desire to have the status that is already gained by men. One can understand that men already have a status since the world of business is geared for typical male roles.

That is apparent by how many of the mainstream blue-collar jobs and management positions are held by men. The girl to whom this mother is speaking must make sure that she seeks to make a name for herself and to help other women gain status. This is stated in “Humanity: Gender”: If so, then modern feminists will need to work to alter this key factor, and in the long term our societies will develop greater equality between the sexes (Gender 238). Since the purpose of examining gender roles is to create equality, then the conflict is that both sexes are trying to make their particular roles closer to equal than they were before. In this piece of literature, the mother speaks directly to her daughter telling her what she is to do in order to become a lady.

There are many allusions in the literary work citing how the daughter should act in society. Examples are “this is how to hem a dress when you see the hem coming down and so to prevent yourself from looking like the slut I know you are so bent on becoming;” and “this is how you sweep a yard” (Kincaid 489). Each culture has specific ways in which people of a specific gender should act. This culture teaches women to make themselves pure and to work diligently for the family. Particularly in the American society, women are taught to make themselves look feminine and to act in a way that keeps them from appearing as a whore or slut.

If a father in this culture were to use the same format as this piece then he would write of how to mow the yard and how to take care of the family. This way of teaching children is very essential for a child to fully grow and become an as effective person as their parents or even better. After all, for a mother and father their most important value to teach their children is to become a better person. In becoming a better person, children should grow up to better understand the opposite sex and work to have better working relationships. Culture reveals the aspects of gender roles and the reasons for why these roles are the way they are and how they are shaped to be this way. In this work, the mother speaking to her daughter relates how she is subordinate to her husband and how the daughter is expected to support her husband.

Even though the woman does the housework, women and men together caused this cultural norm. In order for women to gain more independence, then women must take action. This action that will be taken will cause conflict in the future for this daughter. Men will not be able to accept those changes easily but must be taken for there to be equality or at least a better understanding among the sexes. Finally, gender roles are directly related to how a parent teaches his son or her daughter how to follow or change the gender roles. Bibliography “Humanity: Gender” Coursepack. Ed. Amy Gantt.

Raleigh: NCSU, 1999. Kincaid, Jamaica. “Girl”. Literature for Composition. 4th Ed. Sylvan Barnet, et al New York: Harper Collins, 1996.


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