Masculinity And Femininity In Mcewan's Atonement

2398 Words10 Pages
The roles and definition of gender and its implications have been and still are complex and often times confusing depending on the circumstance. What really defines masculinity/femininity and can they be interchangeable in the sexes? Can a woman act like a man and vice versa without it somehow going against nature? With this ever changing definition and implication of gender, it is interesting McEwan sets us up in a world seeming to have black and white view of this debate. Throughout Atonement the divide between masculinity and femininity is un-doubtfully present and is almost always hard and fast. The fact that this representation of gender creates ideal circumstances, within the world McEwan’s characters inhabit, and the fact that Briony…show more content…
Although neither take a significant role in the novel, Jack and Leon Tallis are critical starting points to understanding the expectations of masculinity. Beginning with Jack Tallis, we are not told outright, but it seems masculinity includes being the provider for the family, even if that means long nights away from the home. Emily has come to expect the “phone call from the department to say that Mr. Tallis had to work late and had to stay up in town” (96). But, this also implies Jack Tallis is having an affair, suggesting being involved with multiple women and sexual superiority is a right of those claiming masculinity. From the example set forth by Leon, readers can also assume the “gift of avoiding responsibility” and the ability to “float free” is also bestowed upon men if they so desire it as an option (96). From this limited view of masculinity readers are shown both freedom and power as key…show more content…
The world McEwan sets up his characters in has several circumstances, created by expectations of feminism and masculinity, which ultimately creates Briony’s ability to make the decisions she does. The first of these being Robbie’s presence in the Tallis home. Jack Tallis “did not have it in him to turn out a young women and her child,” which goes back to the trait in masculinity of being superior and the provider identified earlier (82). Had he not seen the situation as a woman being unable to provide for her son, simply because of an absent male figure, Robbie would never have been taken under Jack’s wing and never would have had the opportunity to fall in love with Cecilia. Not only that, but by sequence of events, Briony would never have had the chance to accuse him, had Jack Tallis’s masculine nature not surfaced and shaped the events by bringing Robbie into their
Open Document