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Who Wears the Pants in “Nobody Knows”

analytical Essay
721 words
721 words
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Sally Adair Rigsbee says that in the story “Nobody Knows” George Willard “takes advantage of the subordinate position of Louise Trunnion...” (Sally Adair Rigsbee, 184) Yet, I do not believe this is the case and I view the story to show almost the exact opposite. To me, “Nobody Knows” is a story about reversed gender roles in losing one's virginity disguised as a story with traditional gender roles in having sex. It is a trap constructed by Sherwood Andersen in an almost surreptitious way that can be both easy to see through and fall into, and in this case I think Rigsbee did the latter. In this story I see George Willard take on a more feminine role while appearing to be the masculine and Louise Trunnion takes on the more masculine role while appearing to be the feminine.
In the beginning we see George acting extremely nervous and Andersen tells us that he is trembling “as though with fright.” (Sherwood. Andersen, 27) These actions do not give off the impression of manliness and make him seem meek and unsure of what he's doing. They make him appear to more of a blushing virgin than anything else. They are not the actions we expect of someone in control of his situation as one taking advantage of someone else.
He runs to Louise's house while she is doing chores, only for her to ask how he knows she want to be with him. (Andersen, 27-28) This gives him a feeling of uncertainty and makes him wonder if he made a mistake, which gives Louise the advantage. She then tells him to go wait by the barn for her. It is then revealed that she had sent him a note saying “I'm yours if you'll have me.” (Andersen, 28) The implications of the note are clear and it is obvious that she set the wheels for the arrangement in motion. With the way she i...

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...nter. She strokes his ego and says what he needs to hear to give him enough control to take initiative. George plays the role of a nervous and blushing virgin until given that extra push, which is, for the most part, portrayed and seen as a feminine role. He does seem to fall into a more masculine role toward the end but that is only when Louise is no longer consciously controlling the events and after he is away from her and much time has passed. “Nobody Knows” does a great job of subtlety shifting gender roles that it is easy to fall into Andersen’s trap. This what I believe happened to Rigsbee when she was writing her criticism and why her opinion is the way it is.

Works Cited

Andersen, Sherwood. Winesburg, Ohio. A Norton Critical Edition ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 1996. Print.
Rigsbee, Sally A. "The Feminine in Winesburg, Ohio." (1996). Print.

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how rigsbee thinks that george's "control" over the situation is proven by the fact that "[george] sees women only as objects to be used to expand his sense of personal power."
  • Analyzes how "nobody knows" does a great job of subtlety shifting gender roles that it is easy to fall into andersen's trap.
  • Explains andersen, sherwood. winesburg, ohio. norton critical edition ed.
  • Analyzes how "nobody knows" shows reversed gender roles in losing one's virginity disguised as a story with traditional gender role in having sex.
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