Framing the Human: Dehumanization in Literature

Topics: Sociology, Woman, Gender role Pages: 3 (1019 words) Published: October 29, 2011
In primitive cultures, the primary source of threat to human beings is Nature. But in economically-advanced countries, it is not nature, but other human beings who make us feel threatened most of the time. One might say that people are often de-humanized. To de-humanize is to remove or deny human qualities, characteristics, or attributes of a person or group of people. Using reader response criticism, a reader can analyze that in the short stories “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner, “Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway and “Miss Brill” by Katherine Mansfield one will find three examples of de-humanization taking place using the aspects of gender, social class and mental health as examples. To begin with, dehumanization by gender is apparent in “A Rose for Emily”. Faulkner’s commentary on the role of women in society is clear; he believes that women are inferior to men, almost as second class citizens. For example, the story begins with Faulkner saying, “When Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral: the men through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument, the women mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house…” (115). Faulkner makes his beliefs about the role of gender clear by saying that men attended Miss Emily’s funeral with honor and respect whereas women attend the funeral out of curiosity to see her house, which paints the women as less honorable than the men. In “Hills Like White Elephants”, Hemingway uses gender to dehumanize the girl in the story by giving her the name “Jig” as the American’s pet name for her. “Jig” being the name of a dance so that we see her as a form of entertainment for the American. The reader is never given her real name. Also in this same story the American tells the girl not to worry, insinuating that because he’s a man he knows that everything will be alright. In “Miss Brill” gender is used to dehumanize when she talks about the two people that shared her “special”...
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