Societal Expectations Demanded of Average, Middle-Class Men

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With the focus on gender inequality typically falling to the shortcomings of men towards women, many fail to realize the burdens males must face to preserve their masculinity as society deems fit. The speaker of Stephen Dunn’s “Ambush at Five O’Clock” faces situations which fully depict the expectations, such as emotional strength and a condescending attitude toward women, placed on him and similar males. The employment of various comparative literary techniques like metaphor and personification illustrate the expected characteristics of the individuals present in the text and the speaker’s desire to escape these expectations. The registers present in the poem serve to highlight the emotions associated with events taking place in the poem and emphasize the speaker’s interpretation of them. As the tone shifts throughout the poem, the audience views alternating ideas about the major emotional events through the speaker’s eyes. In “Ambush at Five O’Clock” by Stephen Dunn, the speaker juxtaposes the male and female characters to emphasize the societal expectations, e.g., strength and disdain of female emotion, of average, middle-class males. Throughout the poem the speaker’s employment of metaphor and personification lends to the characterization of the speaker, his wife, and their neighbors. When depicting his male neighbor, the speaker points out that “The man was shy, though came to life when he spotted an uncommon bird” (13-14). The metaphor of the speaker’s emotions coming out, or coming to life, upon his viewing of uncommon birds expresses that though his interests may be relatively simple, he has found something that gives him great enjoyment and fulfillment. The speaker admires this in his neighbor and desires to emulate this,... ... middle of paper ... soul. The military register present in the poem serves to reveal how the speaker feels ambushed by his wife’s sudden outpouring of emotion by the hedge between their property and their neighbor’s property. In addition, the register of suffering clarifies that, though the speaker desires to express his concerns over his soul, he cannot do so due to the societal restrictions on males tarnishing their masculinity through the public expression of emotion. As the tone shifts throughout the poem, the audience views alternating ideas about the major emotional events present in the poem with a focus on the frustrated emotions the speaker communicates at the conclusion of the poem. Through the constant characterization in the poem, the speaker effectively manages to highlight the inequalities between males and females resulting from the perpetuation of gender stereotyping.

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