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Strength of Character More Important than Masculinity

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As boys grow into men, many struggle with what makes real men. This struggle often dramatically changes the young person. This struggle is greatly exacerbated by the media’s portrayal of men. Gretel Ehrlich’s “About Men” deals with the stereotypical image of men and what real men are like. Richard Wright’s “The Man Who Was Almost a Man” shows a young man who feels so derided by everyone thinking of him as a boy that he buys a gun to make himself more powerful. Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried” is about a group of soldiers who all have different methods of coping with their own emotions at the death of a comrade.

The media, Hollywood being one of the main culprits, often depicts true men as being tall, dark, and physically strong. They don’t feel pain and are able to fight, either with their hands or weapons. They are often emotionally hardened, not showing tenderness. The media presents men as “macho, [and] trigger happy.” (Ehrlich 127).

This presents serious problems for young boys who are starting to mature into men. Young men are often told to be tough and to man up. Many boys are taught that crying is for girls and are called cry-babies if they do cry. This is incredibly hard on young guys who compare themselves to men like Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger and see absolutely no resemblance. These boys are often troubled by a growing insecurity from contrasting themselves to the unrealistic image of men. The insecurity spawned by this idolatry of the machismo can lead young guys to resort to drastic measures in order to be recognized as men. In “The Man Who was Almost a Man,” Dave Sunders, a seventeen-year-old African-American in the years after the Civil War, says that “he was going to get a gun and prac...

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...ood but is open to many more men than just the ones who are physically strong and daring. Since manliness is a presence of character, there is a growing need in society, in families, and in government for real men. There is a call for men to become more, to always grow in qualities like love, gentleness, self-control, and selflessness. These qualities are not like clothes. A man with these character traits can earn the respect of many, regardless of his age or physical aptitude.

Works Cited

Wright, Richard. “The Man Who Was Almost a Man.” The River Reader,2nd ed. Natalie Danner. New York: Pearson, 2010. 144-154. Print

Ehrlich, Gretel. “About Men.” The River Reader, 2nd ed. Natalie Danner. New York: Pearson, 2010. 127-129. Print

O’Brien, Tim. “The Things They Carried.” The River Reader, 2nd ed. Natalie Danner. New York: Pearson, 2010. 320-334. Print