Black Oxen Analysis

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In Gertrude Atherton’s Black Oxen, a man named Clavering falls in love with a woman who is not what she appears to be. When Clavering first sees Madame Zattiany, he views her as an object. He refers to her as “it” rather than “she” when he describes her at the beginning of the book. He states that, “in spite of its smooth white skin and rounded contours above an undamaged throat, it was, subtly, not a young face” (Atherton, page 45). Atherton is using Clavering as a vehicle to argue that men tend to see women as objects. It is easier to defend injustice if one can dehumanize the opposing side. It seems as if he is taking stock of her features, as if she were a cow being sold at a market, Clavering is observing her in the hopes of later devouring her. Clavering sees her and knows she is different because she draws attention to herself, she doesn’t just sit in silence. She simply isn’t behaving as Clavering believes a woman should. There is an uncertainty that comes when Clavering sees Mary disregarding the manners of the time. Then he observes her in great detail. His inspection reveals just how superficial Clavering is. He examines her so thoroughly, as if she was a prized mare at auction: “ her forehead was perhaps too high, but it was full, and thick hair was brushed back from a sharp point. Her eyebrows, thank Heaven, were many shades darker than her hair” (Atherton, pages 44-45). It is through these observations that Atherton emphasizes men’s obsession with the
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