Gender Analysis in the Cement Garden

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As we can notice, in the novel the cement garden, within the subject of gender, a struggle in the boys, (Jack and Tom) to define their sexuality arises.

Although both cases differ in many aspects; they share one same motive: the lack of male role models. The reason for this is that the only possible prospect that Tom and Jack had as a person to look up to died; this being their father. Plus the fact that this gamily is characterized by being completely alienated from society: “none of us ever brought friends home”; meaning they had no other option as to whom to imitate or take as a role model.

Nevertheless they take different paths as alternatives to this. While Tom took as an example their older sisters, Jack based his manhood on a character of a novel he was reading called Commander Hunt.

As we have read in chapter four, (pg. 47), “Tom want(s) to be a girl”; this is, at first glance, mainly because he was beaten up at his school by an older boy and he claims that “you don’t get hit when you are a girl”, however, if this statement that he wishes to be a girl is analyzed more deeply, we can see that there are many factors affecting this decision; such as that; like already mentioned, the only people to whom he can look up to are his two older sisters. And although we can ask ourselves why he does not intend to become like Jack, this question can be answered by the description of his older brother being always dirty and messy, while his sisters are tidy and clean.

The fact that Tom is practically a baby is projected in this decision; this is because he, due to his age, has not even began to understand his sexuality, therefore he does nor necessarily seek for a role model of his own biological sex. Moreover, he is ignorant to the pressures and conditionings society imposes on being masculine of feminine, ergo he does not see the problem in wanting to be a girl.

On the contrary, Jack is “horrified and fascinated” by Tom’s wish to be of the opposite sex. This reaction is due to the way Jack has been ‘taught’ to perceive the world: which is through the conditioning of society.

His own identification problem, however, is viewed in a completely different way as a consequence to his age and his awareness of what he should be like; meaning he believes he should follow what is imposed and dictated to him; which is to act in a masculine way, thus having power over women and to be in control of the household; which is why he is jealous of Julie, who seems to have taken the male role of the family. Jack is also quite confused and annoyed because Julie has power over him, something that goes against his masculine ideology, for his believes are that he, by being the older male of the family should be immediately entitled to have complete control and power. (Something which is also dictated by society with the simple symbol which represents a male: ?, which means power and superiority).

This aspect of his ideology, as well as the lack of role models, leads him to aspire the ideas of masculinity of a character of a book which he is reading: Commander Hunt. The reason why he continuously compares himself with this character is because Commander Hunt is at all times in control of his space ship; (which could be regarded as the image which Jack wishes to be in the house and family).

But even though Commander Hunt is Jack’s principal view of how a man should be, his father was the first influence he had; on the other hand, Jack’s view of his father was more linked to a competition prospect than to being a role model. We can see that his father is more of an opponent to him because he only acknowledges his death because it coincided with his own entrance to manhood. We also notice this by the way in which the father is continuously attacking him, although he does imitate him by saying “out of the question” at the start of the novel.

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