Ian McEwan’s Dead as They Come
McEwan uses his reader’s knowledge of culture and society to help showcase his narrator’s masculinity throughout the piece. "Men’s behavior," McEwan has been quoted as saying, " is somehow invisible. we don’t see ourselves as having a behavior that is indefinitely male, we’re just human". The blurring of the lines between what is masculine and what is feminine is brought to the forefront in Dead as They Come as the narrator fights with emotions that are characterized with those belonging to both male and female alike. As the narrator begins his story, his romanticized obsession with the storefront mannequin "Helen" is like that which women love to read about in romance novels.
He describes in rather over the top romantic detail saying, "Her body in it’s rippling changes of posture, adapted itself to the unique demands of each creation. with breathless grace the lines of her perfect body played tender counterpart with the shifting arabesques of sartorial artifice". While statements like these make it obvious that the narrator has a romantic and passionate soul, he feels the need to make up for this emotional weakness by reminding the reader over and over again of his overabundance of wealth and success as a business man. He goes on to say, "I bore you with lyricism," and abruptly changes the reader’s attention by explaining, "I must tell you something about myself. I am wealthy. Possibly there are ten men resident in London with more money than I. Probably there are only five or six". (McEwan 75). These opening statements follow the narrator through the rest of his story as he constantly feels the need to over compensate for his emotions which he seems to feel are weak and at times effeminate.
Modern theory of masculinity is addressed throughout the story as the narrator struggles between his emotions and his need to suppress them. Most members of society feel that, "Male norms stress values such as courage, inner direction, certain forms of aggression, autonomy, mastery, adventure, and considerable amounts of toughness in mind and body" (Donaldson). While the narrator ultimately acts in these forms of masculinity his inner emotions are strikingly different. For example, the narrator is very much afraid and lacks the courage to go into the store and purchase Helen for many days. He continues to walk be the storefront and gaze at her wishing he cold have her. This goes hand in hand with the thought that not only is masculinity somehow invisible "it’s crisis is always ontologically shifting in a way that over determines our view of how, and where, patriarchy actually heals itself with the very same fears of cultural feminization fuelling blandishments of its own unmanning crisis" (Brown). McEwan manages to showcase this crisis between masculine and feminine traits by revealing the narrators every "feminine" emotion and insecurity then following up with his ultimate "masculine" actions in an effort to cover up such feelings.
McEwan employs writing styles throughout the text that overcome many of the more feminine descriptions and emotions giving the overall tone of the piece one of strength and masculinity. For instance, throughout the story whenever the narrator is feeling insecure or worried he repeatedly refers to himself as "a man." This usage occurs most