Masculinities and Female Masculinity in Margaret Laurence’s The Diviners
Margaret Laurence, celebrated as the “First Lady of Canadian Fiction,” had been a sensitive, sensible woman writer who was happy to say that she ‘wrote about women’ necessarily, but who however, restrained herself from being a male-basher, man-hater. In fact, she herself expressed her empathy and sympathy for men’s own pressures and inadequacies. Being a feminist before Feminism, she would not have been aware, however, of the possibilities of theorising the cause of men’s hegemony over women as well as their own selves as “masculinity,” in the later years , which inflicted damage on their own selves as well as on others, and its pluralistic expounding as ‘masculinities’ as Raewyn Connell later was to call it; and still further she would not have figured her own heroine of her last novel The Diviners adopted “Female Masculinities,” as Halberstam supplemented masculinity theory later, to set aside the hegemonic masculinities of the men those heroines had to closely interact with; and it could be attributed that the toxicity of their masculinities - or “toxic masculinities,” as it is called, of late - that harmed all of them. Hence, using Masculinity Theory, this paper deviates from the perspective of ‘women as victims’, as the affected, as the acted upon, in interpreting the above two novels’ lead protagonists, and seeks to interpret them from the viewpoint of why did their men behave the way they did, or else to what gendered-discursive-constructivism they became the victim of, and what counter female masculinities’ the sheroes of these novels resorted to in order to surmount, and to successfully sustain in their lives.
This paper investigates the female masculinity of female protagonist of Margaret Laurence’s last Manawaka novel The Diviners, by analysing the presentation of male characters in various roles and the counter presentation of female character who tend to succeed by surmounting the hurdles the men put across their path in the name of their gendered supremacy and the gendered inferiority of the female protagonist. I investigate how these characters navigate their identities in the given spaces in relating with one another and in different situations and in relation to their own shackles of gender either by succumbing to it, breaking down the chains of their male-female gender normativity as well as mixing and altering/alternating their gender identities. A male need not be masculine and a female need not be feminine is the gender viewpoint of the late 1980s, especially in the postmodernist and post-feminist outlook, and this further gave rise to masculinity studies in the mid-90s. And considering any lack in this masculine-feminine, traditional binary performativity as pathological is hetero-normative imposition, masculinity theorists contend. It is, of course, forced by men, for men both individually and as a group.
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