The Socially Constructed Practice of Masculinity in Literature

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Masculinity is a socially constructed practice that guarantees the domination of men and the subordination of women. This practice has been looked at as a superior “force of nature” in literature for years and years, and Frederic Henry from A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway, McMurphy from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey, and Joe from Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston, all use their masculine identity as a way to gain and maintain power, both subconsciously and consciously. Masculinity and the supposed traits that come along with it, such as the right to power and the right to use violence, are used as means to find fulfillment and success. Henry considers masculinity to be the ultimate stressor of personal autonomy; he consciously commits himself to masculine acts (suppression of emotion, fighting in war) in order to be considered a dominant figure. McMurphy views the feminine as destructive to men and fights back in an attempt to defeat the “Combine,” or cold war society, that suppresses masculine identity and heteronormative sexual performance. Joe uses the practice of masculinity to justify acts of violence against women: as the supreme being, he can control the weaker gender for his benefit. Henry is fighting in World War 2 for the Italians throughout most of A Farewell to Arms not because he wants to fight for democracy or gain honor and valiance, but simply because it is his masculine duty. Hemingway wrote Frederic with his idea
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