Representations Of Masculinity And Femininity In Miguel Street

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Representations of Masculinity and Femininity in Miguel Street

It has been said about V.S. Naipaul's novel Miguel Street that "One of the recurrent themes... is the ideal of manliness" (Kelly 19). To help put into focus what manliness is, it is important to establish a definition for masculinity as well as its opposite, femininity. Masculinity is defined as
"Having qualities regarded as characteristic of men and boys, as strength, vigor, boldness, etc" while femininity is defined as "Having qualities regarded as characteristic of women and girls, as gentleness, weakness, delicacy, modesty, etc" (Webster). The charcters in Miguel Street have been ingrained with the pre- conceived notions of the roles that Trinidadian society dictates for men and women. Naipaul not only uses these notions to show the differences of the sexes, but takes another step in telling anecdotes of characters showing their anti-masculine and anti- feminine features. This will lead to the discovery that our definitions of masculinity and femininity prove that those characteristics apply to the opposite sex in which the women often act like men, and the men often act like women. All of this will be discussed through looking at both male and female characters in the book as well as the boy narrator of the book.

Finding examples of manliness are found with great ease considering that
12 of the 17 stories in some way deal with the theme of manliness (Thieme 24).
It doesnt take long before the first example, a carpenter named Popo, is introduced. In the chapter titled "The Thing Without A Name" we are told that
"Popo never made any money. His wife used to go out and work and this was easy , because they had no children. Popo said ' Women and them like work. Man not made for work" ( Naipaul 17). This attitude immediately makes Popo stand out from the rest of the men of Miguel Street. Hat (a character that will be discussed later) deems Popo as a "man- woman. Not a proper man" (Naipaul 17) because Popo's wife makes all the money. From this brief description of Popo, the reader quickly learns as to what makes a man manly on Miguel Street. Popo has no children which questions his virility. It is also important to notice that Popo's wife has no identity except that of being P...

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...42). I think a lot can be looked into that matter.
We expect how men and women should act, but yet in Miguel Street it ends up being all about illusion. This doesnt apply to the secondary characters of the novel, as they serve their purposes of being the stereotypical men and women of
Trinidad and in this case, Miguel Street. But the main characters never turn out to be who you initially think they are. Laura, Emelda, Mrs. Morgan and the narrator's mother are examples of women who take charge in their homes. They work, they beat and raise their children, and take on the roles of being the masters of their homes. Hat, Popo, Morgan, Man man (who only acts like he's crazy), and Big Foot (who as big as he is, is really a wimp inside) are examples of the illusion that men are the superior ones of Miguel Street. Only a shallow read could see that otherwise. When all is said and done it is the women who carry the qualities of "strength, vigor and boldness" while the men have the qualities of "gentleness, weakness, delicacy" although definitly not "modesty".
On Miguel Street, the only male quality the men have is the lack of modesty, the rest is all illusion.
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