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Did the role of gender have any influence on the actions in the well known novel the Lord of the Flies? Would things have turned out differently if it was all girls stranded on the island, instead of all boys? Gender criticism explores the differences between men and women, the gender stereotypes that are enforced by today’s society, and how William Golding portrays the role of gender in his novel, the Lord of the Flies.
Men and women have some clashing characteristics that separate themselves from each other. For instance, men have larger hearts and lungs, and they have higher amounts of testosterone, which makes them 30% stronger than women. Men are more violent and physical, while women are more emotional and gentle. Also, men and women process information differently, because of differences in a portion of the brain called the splenium. A woman’s splenium is much larger and has more brain wave activity. Women have better night vision, and see better at the red end of the light spectrum, and have better visual memory, while men see better in the daylight. When women try to solve a problem, they often rely on help from those close to them. Women will talk through their problem, discussing the situation in detail, and how they could solve it. While reaching the solution is important, how they solve the situation is important too. Men like to dominate the problem and use it as an opportunity to demonstrate their ability.
Society and media has a huge role in enforcing gender stereotypes. Male images in today’s world portray the male race as being dominating and violent, strong and overpowering. These stereotypical portrayals target young men and make them think that in order to live up to society’s standards, they must resort to aggressive and dominant behavior. Female stereotypes are totally opposite. The media portrays women to be very “ladylike”. They show women as caring, passive, polite, and nurturing. Parents usually raise boys on aggressive sports, such as football or hockey, which encourage competition and violence. Girls, however, are generally brought up on “feminine” activities, such as dance or figure skating, which promote a gentle nature. When a boy shows more interest in dolls than in trucks, his family may be distressed, and provoke him to reveal his “masculine” side. Displays of emotion by boys are often criticized for being “unmanly”, whereas emotional behavior in girls tends to be expected and accepted. As a result, boys tend to not only hide their feelings, but criticize others for showing their emotions. Girls, on the other hand, encourage one another to express feelings and console one another naturally.
In The Lord of the Flies, we are made aware that all of these boys come from boarding schools, an early indication that they have been kept from the company of females from an early age. William Golding isolated these boys from the opposite sex, showing us the nature of men alone. Had females been in the same situation as the boys in the Lord of the Flies, we can infer that they would have fared considerably different. The Venture Theater in Montana staged two versions of the Lord of the Flies, one male, one female. “The girls are more psychological and the boys are more physical,” said Wood, the director. During rehearsal, the boys stomped around an imaginary campfire with great intensity, alternatively screaming, “Kill the beast” and “Kill the pig.” When the girls rehearsed the same scene, their dance was much more choreographed with each girl moving independent of the others. During the dialogue scenes, the girls used body language and tone of voice to show their savagery. The boys would just let whatever felt right come out. Girls are masters of the nasty and well-known talking-behind-your-back-and-make-everyone-hate-you trick. Any and every girl, even the sweetest, has this talent, and it can and will reveal itself under dire circumstances. The girls don’t need to become savages to outcast someone. But savages they would very well become anyway. The evil would reach them eventually just as it took over the boys. Order would be lost, and although there wouldn’t be as much violence as there was with the boys, rivalries would still be manifested.
In conclusion, gender played a huge role in the Lord of the Flies. Physical differences between men and women, media stereotypes on ideal gender conduct, and family socialization, are all factors that contribute to the actions of the boys on the island, and how things would’ve turned out had it been girls instead of boys.
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