Gender Roles in Literature

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Many people think that boys in our culture today are brought up to define their identities through heroic individualism and competition, particularly through separation from home, friends, and family in an outdoors world of work and doing. Girls, on the other hand, are brought up to define their identities through connection, cooperation, self-sacrifice, domesticity, and community in an indoor world of love and caring. This view of different male and female roles can be seen throughout children's literature. Treasure Island and The Secret Garden are two novels that are an excellent portrayal of the narrative pattern of "boy and girl" books. When thinking of books that seem to be written specifically for young boys, Treasure Island is a book that comes to many minds. Treasure Island is the epic tale of thrill seeking and adventure. Stevenson's main character is a small boy, Jim, who gets to go away from his mother and embark on a trip across the ocean. There are sea fearing pirates, sword fight, and bloody killings. These are typically things that interest boys. Stevenson also follows the literary pattern described by Perry Nodelman in his book, The Pleasures of Children's Literature. He describes that many novels written by men follow a pattern when it comes to the plot of their stories. "There is an unified action that rises toward a climax and then quickly comes to an end" (Nodelman 124). Treasure Island follows this pattern. The novel moves towards the climax of finding the treasure and then ends quickly without too great of detail with how the treasure money is spent or what happens in the character's lives. In many ways, Treasure Island exemplifies the narrative patterns of a "boy book." On the opposite end of the spectrum, The Secret Garden seems to be written for girls. The Secret Garden's main character is a young, orphaned girl named Mary. The story focuses on Mary finding friends, becoming a better person, and a family coming together at...
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