Masculinity In Paul Beatty's The White Boy Shuffle

analytical Essay
1868 words
1868 words

In a more recent politically and culturally diverse world, many contemporary authors take it upon themselves to create novels exploring our diversity. In Paul Beatty’s The White Boy Shuffle, Beatty decides to critique our society’s strict and confining gender stereotypes and standards. Using irony and symbolism, Beatty crafts interesting characters, scenes, and dialogue to suggest that no one person is one-dimensional, and when society attempts to confine our multi-dimensional selves, many times we suffer from negative consequences. Through characters like Gunnar and Scoby, Beatty challenges the stereotypical masculinity expected of black males and what responses may occur as society attempts to box them in. During the first half of Beatty’s …show more content…

After the death of their fellow gangster Pumpkin, the GTH attempt to avenge Pumpkin’s death by raiding a rival gang. However instead of simply going in, guns blazing, the GTH dress in drag. While one would expect them to hate their seemingly emasculating facades, the gang members seemed to revel in their femininity. According to Gunnar, his friend Psycho Loco seemed to enjoy himself the most, “admiring his lusty visage in his compact, Psycho Loco flapped his false eyelashes [and blew himself a kiss”(p. 106). Psycho Loco, the leader of the GTH, a seemingly masculine societal position, enjoyed dressing in drag. And not only Psycho Loco, but the rest of the gang seemed to revel in their newfound femininity as well, “They fought over who would have the largest breasts and who would wear the expensive Wanton perfume. …show more content…

Beatty specifically uses the character Scoby to show the negative consequences that can come from the strictly masculine stereotypes we force upon black men in particular. For instance, Beatty uses irony to critique our society’s expectations of a black man’s sports abilities. When Scoby becomes the star of the school basketball team, he begins to break from all the constant support everyone gives him for his ability to never miss a shot. Scoby tells Gunnar, “‘I’m no fucking Tiki doll, no fucking icon. Don’t folks have anything better to do with their lives than pay attention to what I’m doing?’. . . It’s not fair. I wasn’t born to make them happy”(p. 119). Ironically, instead of treasuring and basking in the glory and praise a star basketball player usually receives, Scoby buckles under it all. Now that the school expects nothing but greatness from Scoby, he feels pressured to be nothing but perfect. Scoby being a black male definitely does not help his case much either. According to sociologist K. D. Thomas, this stereotypical black masculinity “may narrow the scope of products associated with black masculinity and therefore restricts how black males can express their masculinity”(Thomas). Thus Scoby being a basketball player does nothing but restrict him to stereotypical black athlete expectations. And

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how paul beatty critiques society's strict and confining gender stereotypes and standards by crafting interesting characters, scenes, and dialogue to suggest that no one person is one-dimensional.
  • Analyzes how beatty uses irony to illustrate how easily society's stereotypes of masculinity, especially amongst gangsters, can be broken.
  • Analyzes how beatty uses irony to illustrate how a masculine gangster like gunnar, can enjoy his subordinate sex life.
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