, Research Paper
Gender Roles in Fool for Love
A play written in 1983, Fool for Love , written by Sam Shepard, features a small setting with only a few actors. With only a few actors a may seem that issues may be on a smaller level as well. However, there are gender biases throughout the play that exemplify the American culture. The stage descriptions prove to be a powerful place to emphasize gender roles and also biases of them. Furthermore, description of each character can not only provide information as to how they might dress, but also the type of person and or culturally gender biases can be viewed in them. Additionally, the way each character is represented in the way they act and or speak in the play represents gender biases in American culture.
Some may argue that Shepard had no intentions of placing these types of gender bias in his play. I believe that each writer or playwright tries really hard to find perfect elements to their play or story. A lot of times the best way to relate to the audience, or add the perfect element to make the scene more powerful, is to add pieces of everyday life that everyone is familiar with. For example, if I was to write a play, but instead of using common American practices I used common pieces of German culture, then how effective would it be on an American audience? This is the reason, it seems, that the stage directions in Fool for Love are specific, not so much in detail, but to things that brings out American culture, and even more specific gender roles. An example that really comes to mind when thinking about this occurs in the struggle between Eddie and May just before Martin enters the scene. About halfway down page 41 the stage direction reads:
(She moves toward stage left door. Eddie stops her. She screams. They struggle as May yells at stage left door.)
This seems to be such a typical chase scene throughout many American plays and novels. The powerful man is chasing the helpless girl. However, I do not believe that if the situation were portrayed differently it would have been as effective. Furthermore, it set up the entrance for Martin, and helped to bring more power to the scene. These gender biases, however, are very apparent in this direction and in other parts throughout the play.
Description just might be one of the best ways to get a feel of a character being portrayed in a play. This can also provide gender bias. We see this, for example, in the beginning of the play when the descriptions of each character are given. Primarily focusing on Eddie and May, we see typical gender bias from the past. Eddie is described wear muddy rugged looking stuff, hinting that he probably does manual labor works hard, and does manly things. May is described wearing a skirt, but mainly seems like around the house type of clothes, and she has an ankle bracelet seemingly dainty. Interestingly there is no description of Martin. The only description we get of Martin is from Eddie and May arguing. From this, we might draw that he probably does not do manual labor, from Eddies bantering about Martin not being a man , and from May s defending him. He is also, I think, portrayed to be a little more educated. This is because of the way May describes him to be sensitive and intelligent. It seems that with more education there is more understanding and possibly resulting emotion. I believe that each character s description itself is a precursor to the later event of the reasonable Martin saving the helpless May from the unreasonable Eddie.
Likewise, the way in which the characters act seems to point to bias in gender of our culture. Referring directly to the argument between Eddie and May about the manliness of Martin. First of all, this argument typifies the jealous male. It seems that Eddie attacks Martin s manhood because he is jealous that May is spending time with another man. Secondly, we see that it appears May feels some kind of obligation to defend herself to Eddie s insults about Martin. This seemingly gives power to Eddie to control the course of the conversation. Often it seems that in the past the woman is often defending herself and the man is dictating the conversation, which seems to be the case here. However, I believe that any biases in the acting are primarily generated throughout the stage directions and the character descriptions.
Throughout Fool for Love , written by Shepard, many gender biases are seen in subtle ways; through the stage direction, character description and the actual acting, the intent of these biases is to be involved in the play. With common characteristics of our culture, the feeling to each audience member can be much stronger when looking upon something more familiar. While these biases would not be good to practice in everyday life, I think that they play important roles in the play and the characters of the play.