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Masculinity in Paul Laurence Dunbar's The Sport of the Gods - Essay Example

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Masculinity in Paul Laurence Dunbar’s The Sport of the Gods Paul Laurence Dunbar was the first African American poet to gain recognition; he also wrote novels among which The Sport of the Gods. This novel portrays the life experiences of two families belonging to different racial, cultural and economic background…
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Masculinity in Paul Laurence Dunbars The Sport of the Gods
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"Masculinity in Paul Laurence Dunbar's The Sport of the Gods"

Download file to see previous pages Regardless of race, class or even geographic location, Dunbar presents the white men’s model of masculinity as the only embodiment of manhood. Responsibility represents an important aspect of masculinity the novel points out. This responsibility requires men to be heads of households and take care of their family. In fact, the South expects its men to be strong and hardworking in order to manage and secure their family needs. For instance, Maurice Oakley, a white man who owns a plantation, believes in this principle and urges his employees to follow his example. Married to Leslie Oakley, a docile and obedient woman who respects her southern values, Mr. Oakley fully plays his role. He especially encourages Berry Hamilton, his butler, to get married: It is then possible to see how Oakley's desire for Berry to find a wife (as he has found one) necessitates that Berry find a wife that is like his, one that embodies the role of an "appropriate" wife and has the disposition that will allow Berry to be the head of the household--or in this case, the house in the back of the "big house." Ultimately, Oakley wants Berry to become a black version of himself within the constraints of his own household. (Tsemo) Mr. Oakley wants his servant to marry a woman who will obey and respect him so that he can become a head of household. As the landlord, he urges his employees to follow his steps. When Berry Hamilton marries Fannie, he fulfills Mr. Oakley’s wish and becomes himself a head of household with all the responsibilities and expectations involved. Even though the two households differ because of the social status involved, both men exercise some authority over their wives. Despite their different racial and class background, their southern roots grant them power over their wives who also accept and even expect such role. Mr. Oakley and Berry not only share this privilege their gender grants them over their wives but they also share the same values. Born and raised in the South, they believe in the same set of principles and rules of conduct. Berry even raises his children, Joe and Kit, to respect and cherish these values as they grow up. Already a hardworking and trustworthy servant, Berry emulates his employer in his deed, actions and values (Tsemo). Despite their different social status, Berry even tries to follow Oakley’s economic principles by putting aside some money after his family expenses have been met. This economic organization allows him to live decently and save his family from need compared to other black men struggling to survive. This mild success costs him the envy and jealousy of the African American community that accuses him to imitate white people’s way of life. Even though both Oakley and Berry share the patriarchal powers they believe in, some of Oakley’s beliefs will ultimately cause Berry’s destruction. Accused of stealing money from Oakley’s cabinet, Berry is sentenced to 10 years of prison. He therefore loses his head of household status as he leaves his helpless wife and children. This arrest affects his dignity, his reputation and even his manhood. The Southern Values he so much believes in fail to protect and save him and actually makes him an easy target for the accusation. Despite his 20 years of devoted and loyal service to Oakley, his race and class render him a suspect of a crime he did not commit. Convinced of his innocence, the loss of his freedom comes as a surprise. ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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