Gender Roles In Childrens Literature

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Gender Bias in Literature 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 character’s 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 Sachar’s 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 Sachar’s 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. 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 relationsh... ... middle of paper ... ...d allows future generations to go on clinging to the same stilted social values we fault now. Each author presents to us an image of the world and then displays the principles they hold dear by controlling their characters within it. It is by analyzing these images and principles that we will be fully able to understand the views present around us and thereby form a more educated one of our own. Ernst wrote, “…changes in children’s books often come long after they have been seen in reality” (76). We as teachers have a responsibility to dialogue these notions with our students so that they will have the insight to write about it in the future. Bibliography · Bloor, Edward. Tangerine. New York: Scholastic Inc., 1997. · Coman, Carolyn. What Jamie Saw. New York: Puffin Books, 1995. · Creech, Sharon. Walk Two Moons. New York: Harper Trophy, 1994. · Ernst, Shirley B. “Gender Issues in Books for Children and Young Adults.” Battling Dragons. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1995. · Sachar, Louis. Holes. New York: Frances Foster Books, 1998.
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