Significance of Women in Waterland

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Graham Swift crafts his female characters- Mary Metcalf, Sarah Atkinson, Helen Atkinson and Martha Clay- involved in “Waterland” so as to intertwine them to something other than being a character. These includes them being a object of sexual pleasure, as seen from Mary and the land girls. Women present in the novel also signify the men’s devotion to women. Their minor presence and functions in the novel also signify the novel’s male predominance

In “Waterland”, the female characters serves as sexual objects to the rest of the male characters. This can be seen in page 46 where Farmer Metcalf “regarded the land girls as replacement labour and made no concessioning either to their sex or to the patriotic motives which brought them to his acres”. The use of “replacement” in the diction of “replacement labour” suggests that their job to provide manual labour in the farm is meaningless that it needs to be substituted by sexual labour. this shows that the land girl are seen as sexual objects as their real purpose to labour is disregarded and substituted with sexual labour. Another evidence to justify this is seen when Tom stated that Mary “could not keep exercising her curiosity... particularly in matters sexual, whose investigations, in this area, did not stop with the future history teacher”. The use of diction on “exercising” shows how her unfaithfulness with one love partner is eminent and seems like it is routined. Mary, in her adolescent age, offers herself as a sexual target to most of her peers that she associates with, as if her character has nothing else to offer but sexual pleasure. Hence, she is one of the women in the novel that serves as a sexual object. In addition to this, Chapter 24 states how Freddie “shoved an eel in Mary’s knickers” and the use of the diction on “shove” shows how she is being harshly treated even during sexual intercourse. This shows how her character is seen as a sexual object.

Contrasting the latter, the novel likewise talks...
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