The Way Mcewan Portrayed Women Essay, Research Paper
Consider the way in which McEwan portrayed women through his female characters
Every female character within the novel is connected through Stephen. The main female characters are part of Stephen’s private life; these are the people with which Stephen is closest to throughout the Novel. The minor characters are the females, which Stephen interacts with throughout his public life.
Julie, Stephen’s wife and Thelma, a close friend both have very different characters, they both represent the roles of modern females within our society both these characters go against the view proposed of the government.
McEwan has expressed both their characters as being extremely strong and independent in their own ways. However some aspects of their characters seem to fit some of the governments proposed views of women. An example of this is that both women have extremely strong maternal instincts. Although Thelma never has children of her own, she diverts her mothering instincts to Charles.
Stephens’s mother is one of the few women within the novel that fulfils the government’s image of women within society. However she is from another generation, a generation where women are to stand by and support their husband. McEwan however manages to express Claire’s strong and independent character through the pub scene Claire goes against her husband and decides not to have an abortion.
“She was an odd mixture of shyness and independence” This could be indicating that this is how McEwan sees all women. Claire only begins to fulfil the traditional women’s role when she marries Douglas.
Throughout the novel McEwan seems to respect and admire the maternal and caring instincts of women. Mc Ewan manages to express these feelings through his writing without appearing negative towards men within the novel and men in general.
Two of the three minor female characters are both members of the government committee. We don’t get much information about their background or their lives but the reader gets the general idea of them from their names, “Miss Rein” Rein being the French word for nothing. Although McEwan has assigned a negative name for a reason I believe it
Not to be because in his eyes women like Miss Rein are nothing but because he believes in the governments eyes she is seen as nothing.
“The room had once been a broom cupboard” The government
See her not to be worthy of a proper office but instead give her a broom cupboard.
“Miss Rein sat less than four feet away gazing at Stephen with proprietorial wonder. He smiled back uncomfortably and lowered his gaze”
Miss Rein is fulfilling the feminine image of women being flirtatious and shy, while Stephen is being typically male by lowering his gaze.
The other woman on the committee Tessa Spankey, described as a
“Large woman with dimples at the base of each finger. Her face was double chinned and friendly, all freckles and crows feet.” McEwan uses alliteration in this description this gives a gentle flow and doesn’t sound harsh. Tessa Spankey is also described as having a maternal gaze
“She took care to include each member in her maternal gaze” Her name has a sexual reference, it sounds laughable this could indicate that Stephen and the rest of the committee see her as a joke. Throughout the novel Stephen’s view on politics is quite negative this name is not directed specifically at women but at the committee in general this is suggested by the fact that there is also a male character referred to in this paragraph called “Colonel Jack Tackle.”
The other minor female character is a taxi driver. This woman is another example of the modern independent woman although she is still described as motherly,
“The taxi driver was a friendly motherly woman who insisted on fastening his seatbelt for him”
This seems to suggest that Stephen is thinking that even though she is taking a potentially male job she still has the same female motherly instincts.
These three minor characters, I feel are Mc Ewan’s way of telling society that women should not be treated in this way and should be treated like the potential child bearers that they are.
ian mc ewans child in time