Winters Bone


Winter’s Bone Character Analysis

July 22, 2019 by Essay Writer

Daniel Woodrell creates a protagonist in his novel, Winter’s Bone, who is prideful, resilient and would do anything to preserve her own kin and blood. Woodrell also allows the reader to see her weaknesses, making identification with her character easily done. Ree Dolly faces challenges at a young age that most children her age could never endure. Her father, Jessup Dolly, disappears and leaves her as the head of the household to take care of two younger brothers, Harold and Sonny, and a mother who is mentally absent, and she eventually learns that her family will lose their home if her father does not return. Ree sets out on an adventure to find her father, and on her journey, she exhibits qualities, such as stubbornness, bravery, pride and independence, that inspire the reader to long for her success.

Once the circumstances of her situation unravel, Ree is a character who a reader will instantly want to pity and admire at the same time. She is a sixteen-year-old girl who is immediately forced into adulthood by taking charge of an abandoned family of four. Ree has dreams to leave the world she was born into and save herself, but throughout the novel she grows into a character who would sacrifice anything for her family, even if leaving them behind would shed her of the burdens they bring. At the end of her journey, Ree has a conversation with her younger brother where she affirms that she would never leave them on their own: “Harold said, ‘Does this mean you’re leavin’?” “’I ain’t leavin’ you boys. Why do you think that?’” “’We heard you once, talkin’ ‘bout the army and places we wouldn’t be. Are you wantin’ to leave us?’” “’Naw. I’d get lost without the weight of you two on my back’” (Woodrell 193). Although the situation is resolved and her family does not face the threat of their house being taken away, Ree’s loyalty and bonds with her family keep her from packing up and leaving them behind. Jessup puts their family home and land up for bond, and leaves Ree, who is only a child, to clean up his mess. Ree handles her situation with strength and resilience, while also staying loyal to her family. She embarks her journey, despite her fears, by traveling to the homes of hostile and intimidating family members who surprisingly lead her to her father after much perseverance. “She’d start with Uncle Teardrop, though Uncle teardrop scared her” (Woodrell 20). Ree is part of a community of crank cooks and dealers who are difficult to reason with, and resort to violence and hostility before ever exposing secrets or the whereabouts of someone in their corner. Uncle Teardrop warns Ree about searching for her father when he says to never “’go down around Hawkfall askin’ them people shit about stuff they ain’t offerin’ to talk about’” (Woodrell 25). Despite Teardrop’s warnings, Ree’s stubbornness pushes her to continue on her journey. She bravely sets out to Hawkfall, alone, entering territory that no other would ever set foot in. While her motivation to put herself in dangerous situations is admirable and brave, it is also a weakness she exhibits. Ree finds herself at the door of Thump Milton begging for answers about her father. Thump Milton’s wife warns her to never return, but Ree reappears later in the novel desperate to find her father and save her family home. When Thump Milton’s wife refuses to help her, the strong ties she has to her family and blood are evident when she says “’…I am Dolly! Some of our blood at least is the same. That’s s’posed to mean somethin’- ain’t that what is always said?’” (Woodrell 59). Her reappearance to Hawkfall led to major consequences that she should have seen coming her way after the warnings that her family had given her. She risks her life by putting herself in harmful situations while searching for the truth and suffers a beating that leaves her helpless and unable to move off of the ground. Another weakness that Ree exhibits is her pride. Ree lives in an impoverished community where necessities such as food and money are hard for her to obtain, and she must find ways to fend for her family without appearing weak to those around her. In the beginning of the novel, Ree’s younger brothers complain about their lack of food and their hope that someone will bring supply food for their home. After listening to their discontent, she grabs her brother by the ear and tells him to “never ask for what ought to be offered” (Woodrell 5). Ree’s father not only placed her house up for bond, but he also placed the timber on his land up for it too. Her pride comes into play when her uncle advises her to “sell off that Bromont Timber now while [she] can,” and she refuses to do so, even though it could support her family if her home is repossessed by the government due to her father’s inability to appear in court (Woodrell 112). She refuses to tear apart a home that has been in her family for generations.

Although the author depicts Ree as a brave and resilient character throughout the novel, he also offers instances of weakness to allow the reader to identify with her more realistically, and to remind the readers that she is only a child. Ree appears to be strong and able to conquer anything that life throws at her, but she is only human and all humans have their own weaknesses. Ree takes care of her family as the head of her household, which is a job normally carried out by a mother or a father, two people whom Ree lacks in her life. There is an occasion in the novel when Ree takes her mother out to a field and falls to her knees and says, “’ Mom, I’m goin’ to need you to help. There’s things happenin’ that I don’t know what to do about’” (Woodrell 118). Throughout the novel, it is easy to forget that Ree is only a child who is living in a world where she must act as an adult and fend for herself. This occasion allows the reader to remember the circumstances of her situation, and relate to her moment of weakness, because no one can face everything on their own. At the end of the novel, Thump Milton’s wife and her sisters appear at Ree’s doorstep offering to bring her to father’s body. She is hesitant to trust them after the beating they gave her, but she realizes that she has nothing left to lose and submits to their offer. The women drive her to a remote location where she must pull her father’s body out of a frozen lake. The women ask her to cut off her father’s hands in order to prove his death to the authorities to save her home, but she refuses. “’Here’s the chain saw.’” “’What?” “’How else you goin’ to get his hands? They’ll know its him by his hands.’” “Oh, no, shit. No’” (Woodrell 185). The author writes this scene to remind the readers that Ree is not as fearless as she depicts herself to be, and that she is only a child.

Ree Dolly is a character that is easy to like and admire because of her strengths and weaknesses combined. The author puts Ree in positions where her admirable qualities will shine through the darkness that she is enduring. Throughout her journey to save her family and find her father, she exhibits qualities that no other sixteen year old child could ever display. She faces challenges that show her bravery and independence, while never failing to uphold her loyalty to her family. Her weaknesses and strengths both shape her into a relatable character, proving that a person can be incredibly brave and fearless, while also being scared of what the future may bring.

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To Hear that Mournful Melody

May 30, 2019 by Essay Writer

In his book Winter’s Bone, Daniel Woodrell follows sixteen-year-old Ree Dolly in her struggle to help her family survive in the bleak Ozarks. The protagonist must constantly maintain a crucial balance between caring for her mentally incapacitated mother and younger siblings while hunting the hardscrabble hills surrounding her dilapidated home for her jailbird father who used their house to guarantee his bail bond. Since the idea of the strength of family bonds is central to the text, the passage in which Ree prepares her brothers for school is key to the novel assince it establishes her as the mother figure to the boys. In this passage, Woodrell uses indirect characterization, shown through the lens of Ree’s thoughts and actions, to both magnify the predominant idea of the duties of the archetypal mother and underscore that those who choose to take on the role of mother are responsible not only for providing the basics of survival for their children, but also for their mental and emotional well-being. Director Debra Granik carefully selects a poignant song to accompany Ree’s interactions with her siblings in the movie’s opening scene, a device that effectively translates Woodrell’s idea of maternal love and responsibility from the page to the screen.

Woodrell uses indirect characterization in this passage, immersing the reader in Ree’s consciousness to establish that Ree is much more than an older sibling to her brothers and is in fact the archetypal mother. Before the boys go to school, she feeds them and ensures that they are ready to ride the bus. Ree instructs them to “‘finish up eatin’’” (6) and “‘put those … socks on’” (7), cajoling them as mothers have through the ages. As she performs these quintessential duties, her birth mother silently rocks in a chair near the potbelly stove like a “breathing thing that sat near heat and occasionally made a sound” (6). The juxtaposition between Ree’s homely actions and the mother’s stillness and inability to fulfill even the slightest maternal responsibilities shows how Ree has readily assumed the role as the mother of the boys. In this passage, Ree provides for the physical needs of the children by feeding them breakfast, while at the same time providing for their intellectual needs by making sure they’re ready for school, obligations normally fulfilled by a biological mother but ones that Ree has readily assumed without complaint. Woodrell uses indirect characterization to further emphasize Ree’s maternal role by showing the reader her careful observations of the boys’ characters, comparing them to “scampering quotation marks” (7), as well as her desire that they “not be dead to wonder by age twelve” (8). Ree’s careful studies of her brothers are more akin to a mother’s conscious reflections of her children than a sister’s considerations of her siblings, which is additional proof that Ree has taken on the role of the parent. Additionally, by hoping that they not become dead to wonder, Ree demonstrates that she wants to protect the emotions and innocence of her brothers, another example of her nurturing and protective maternal instincts.

Throughout history, mothers who not only perform caretaking duties but also support their children have been considered good mothers. Woodrell suggests that Ree is a quintessentially good mother because she provides physical, intellectual and emotional care for her children in a willing and loving way.Granik’s opening scenes and music choice highlight Ree’s role as a parent, successfully translating Woodrell’s indirect characterization of Ree as an archetypal mother. The movie begins with a simple shot of the mountains, then transitions into a scene of Ree’s two siblings, Ashley and Sonny, bouncing on a trampoline. The smiles of the children show them to be simply happy and seemingly unperturbed by life in a ramshackle house. The scene then moves to the children playing with a box of puppies and finally to Sonny pulling Ashley along on a skateboard, visual manifestations of Ree’s observation of them as “scampering quotation marks”. After these scenes, a laughing Ashley tries to help Ree hang up clothes to dry while Sonny swings in a hammock, carefree actions that show that the children feel safe with Ree, who has assumed the mother’s role, caring for their well-being by performing typical maternal jobs. In the next shot, Ree sits next to Ashley and dresses Ashley’s doll, a scene that shows their close bond, another archetypal example of a mother and daughter sharing a special moment. All of these scenes of happy family togetherness are underscored by the accompanying song, “Missouri Waltz.” The lyrics of this song are not only an intimate lullaby a mother once sang to her child, but also a nostalgic expression for a time when the singer was a child “on my mommy’s knee … [hearing] that mournful melody” and the “old folks were hummin’; their banjos a strummin,’” (CITE); a time when a multigenerational family was united in melodic harmony, a contrast to the Dolly family. This mournful haunting melody expresses both the intimate maternal connection between Ree and her siblings as well as the sadness underlying the absence of their biological mother and father for whom Ree stands as willing, loving substitute. Though Granik has chosen to remove all dialogue from the opening scenes, she is able to convey Woodrell’s overarching theme of motherhood to the big screen through careful choice of images and music.

In the absence of her mother and father, Ree must act as a pillar of physical and emotional support for her siblings, becoming the archetypal mother. In the novel, Woodrell contrasts Ree’s maternal role with that of her mentally absent mother, stressing Ree’s importance in maintaining the family. Granik effectively incorporates this idea into the movie through the song lyrics and the scenes she chooses to portray Ree as a kind and caring mother. Ultimately, both accomplish the same portrayal of Ree, albeit in different ways.

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The Presentation of Masculinity in Winter’s Bone and Wuthering Heights

March 4, 2019 by Essay Writer

In her essay “Dispelling the Myth of Strong Female Characters,” Megan Leigh deconstructs the phrase “strong female character”, and argues that it is too often a positive attachment given to two-dimensional female characters. The stereotypical female in literature is emotionally vulnerable, caring and weak, “while the strong woman is aggressive, abrasive, violent and has difficulty connecting emotionally with others”. When critics call for more “strong female characters”, what they really are calling for, Leigh says, is a masculine warrior stereotype in the form of a female character, or as she calls it, the “shedding of femininity” . Superficial readings of both Winter’s Bone and Wuthering Heights often come to the comparison that the female protagonists of the novel are “strong female characters”. This is often the case with modern feminist readings of many texts, as too often, female characters are considered “strong” due to their tendency towards traditionally masculine traits. In this essay, I hope to explore the presentation of masculinity in both texts, as well as examining the “strong female characters” within Wuthering Heights and Winter’s Bone.

Most critics of Wuthering Heights agree that Bronte’s intention was to create an anti-social genderless world, where characters behave regardless of societal pressures. This idea is most embodied in Cathy and Heathcliff who both proclaim to be the other’s half, despite their differing social statuses and genders. Inga-Stina Ewbank describes the polarity of Bronte’s work, “traditionally masculine and feminine qualities and attitudes are entirely subordinated to the complex of opposites formed” . Heathcliff and Cathy transcend their physical states, and behave outside the norms of their genders, as Terry Eagleton states “they seem to transcend the personal into some region beyond” . Heathcliff mainly embodies masculine virtues, but sometimes exhibits a more well-rounded romantic version of masculinity, that involves intense emotions and passions. Charlotte Bronte explains that her sister creates this gender confusion because “Nothing moved her more than any insinuation that … esteemed virtues in the daughters of Eve, become foibles in the sons of Adam” . Unlike many other writers of her time, Bronte’s intent was not to uphold strict gender roles, but to question the toxicity of gender within her society through the subversion of traditional gothic roles. To reflect this, Bronte creates an intensely violent world, where primal, masculine characters cause the downfall of their own microcosm of society.

In contrast to Bronte’s world, it isn’t the masculine characters that enforce toxic masculinity within Woodrell’s novel, but the harsh landscape and society of the Ozarks. Within Woodrell’s modern southern gothic tale, the inherent violence within Ree’s male-driven society stems from her anti-social, violent surroundings. As much as Bronte creates a gender-less society, Woodrell’s intent is to create a masculine society, where all female traits are erased, as hyper-masculine violence is the only way to survive. Niall Griffiths warns of Woodrell’s society “Here live brutal women” , as the women within the story are forced to inhabit the “strong female character” role for the sake of survival. Although Woodrell inhabits the same message as Bronte, he faced much less criticism for his take on gender. Woodrell uses a female perspective to experience the “harrowing world ”, but Ree’s perspective is authenticated through Woodrell, just as Lockwood gives credibility to Nellie’s narrative voice. Not only is Woodrell writing from the privileged position of a male writer in a male-dominated field, but he also has the privilege of 159 years of progress, as far as discussions of gender. Much like Cathy writing on the margins of her bible, Bronte was forced to adopt a male pseudonym to even publish her works. The criticisms given to both works at the time of publishing reflect this, Woodrell receives immediate praise, whereas Bronte’s reception is lukewarm at best and judgemental at worst, best shown in the Anonymous review of Wuthering Heights “We detest the affectation and emotional frippery which is but too frequent in the modern novel, and willingly trust ourselves with an author who goes at once fearlessly into the moors and desolate places” .

The “Emotional frippery” referred to by Anonymous in the previous quote, refers to the male characters in Wuthering Heights that together, represent changing attitudes towards masculinity in Victorian society. The evolving representation of masculinity was a side-effect of the industrial revolution, and the newly emerging middle class, who represented hard physical labour, and contribution to society through productivity. This was in direct contrast with the eighteenth-century ideals of masculinity that idealised power, status and property in favour of emotional or physical attributes. Faced with two extreme ideals of masculinity, Victorians found the construction of an ideal man nigh impossible. “The idea of the gentleman could never have fascinated the Victorians …. If it had been limited by caste … a strict sense of heraldry … {or} moralized concept. It was the subtle and shifting balance between social and moral attitudes that gave gentlemanliness its fashion ”. Two characters that best represent these traditional and changing values are Edgar and Heathcliff, who are in constant competition and comparison within the novel. Edgar Linton clearly represents the traditional, status-based forms of masculinity. Cathy is superficially attracted to him, as he would make her “the greatest woman of the neighbourhood”. Edgar is not only characterised through his power and property, but through his effeminate, eighteenth-century standard of upper-class masculinity. Lockwood describes Linton’s portrait as “soft featured” and “resembling the young lady at the Heights … almost too graceful”. The connotations of the adjectives used, of softness, youth and grace are all highly feminine, and emasculating.

Alternatively, Heathcliff is characterised as masculine and primal. Throughout the novel, Heathcliff behaves violently towards his surroundings, and exhibits outbursts of uncontrollable emotion. Even as a small child, Heathcliff is capable of extreme violence, when first introduced by Mr Earnshaw, “And at the end of it to be flighted to death…I was never so beaten with anything in my life…though it’s as dark almost as if it came from the devil”. The hyperbole used by Bronte here establishes Heathcliff’s innate, primal masculinity, despite his understanding that Mr. Earnshaw intended on helping him. Bronte also establishes here a supernatural element to Heathcliff’s masculinity, thought by many to represent the “contradictory, transitional definitions of maleness” , which often manifests itself in indescribable, supernatural characters. This constant comparison to otherworldly, supernatural elements convey the inability of society to understand how masculinity takes its form. Despite this, Heathcliff’s interest remains in becoming more like Edgar, he laments to Nellie “I wish I had light hair and fair skin … and had a chance of being as rich as he will be”. The use of “light” and “fair” here, are also clear nods to how class and race based the ideals of masculinity within Bronte’s society were, as both adjectives convey the unspoken requirement of being white.

Despite reflecting the more modern aspects of masculinity, Heathcliff is fixated on the statutory power Edgar possesses, and not the physical power inhabited by himself. “A half-civilised ferocity lurked yet in the depressed brows and eyes full of black fire, but it was subdued: and his manner was even dignified: quite divested of roughness, through stern for grace”. In this extract, Heathcliff’s uncontrollable energy is conveyed through his transformation into a “gentleman”. Though he attempts to appear transformed, he cannot fully become the eighteenth-century man, as this is an unfair, class-based ideal of masculinity. The verb “lurked” hints at the underlying primal nature apparent in Heathcliff.

We see a similar dichotomy in Winter’s Bone, in the form of Ree’s younger brothers, Sonny and Harold, and in the two brothers, Woodrell conveys the societal pressure to conform to a hyper-masculine stereotype. The older of the two, Sonny, despite his young age, portrays the idealised physical form of masculinity, he is “seed from a brute, strong, hostile and direct”. The metaphorical “Seed” is often used surrounding Sonny, and is a biblical association with family, and within Winter’s Bone, a more sinister way of referring to the inheritance of violence and masculinity. While Sonny correctly adheres to societal views of masculinity, his brother Harold struggles to commit acts of violence; “Harold trailed Sonny and tried to do as he did but lacked the same sort of punishing spirit and muscle and often came home in need of fixing, bruised or sprained or humiliated”. This tripling portrays how unusual Harold’s weakness is in the Dolly society. Not only does Harold lack the physical power of masculinity, but he also displays empathy and emotional intelligence, unlike Sonny. When faced with a pack of coyotes, the brothers’ adverse reactions re-enforce their differing personalities. Sonny’s reaction is to “just shoot ‘em ‘tween the eyes”, whereas Harold wants to give food to them, as they “look like dogs”.

Harold’s empathy outlines how extreme the impulsive violence of Sonny is, emphasised by his speedy contractions, “’em” and “’tween”. Harold is less affected by his society at first but is pressured to assimilate into the hyper masculine society, mainly by his sister, Ree, who forces him to kill and butcher a squirrel. “She pulled him down…He crouched on his knees with his eyes held shut and she guided his hand inside the squirrel. He made the sort of face that generally breaks into tears but squeezed with his hand and pulled…until the guts lay on the board… He said, “That really ain’t no biggie, is it? His insides sure was good’n warm on my fingers”. We see here through Ree’s forceful, authoritarian physicality in “pulled” and “guided” and Harold’s morbid enjoyment how although Ree cares for both her brothers, she still enforces the societal implications of masculinity; violence and apathy, on Sonny and Harold.

Ree is another figure in the novel that embodies masculinity, and the “strong female character” stereotype. Ree displays the same violence and selfishness; despite her role as caregiver to her family, she “snatched {Sonny’s} ear and twisted” and shouts “Would you please, please, please, put the fucking socks on”. The violent verb snatched as well as her use of violent language indicates not only her frustration at her situation, but her use of violence as a form of care. This female violence is reflective of the subversive values and taboo experiences in Wuthering Heights, that Ellen Moers refers to as “female perversities” . Moers points at gothic violence as being a truer reflection of Victorian “woman’s fantasy”, as opposed to nature, and following the domestic and serene. The violence exhibited in both Wuthering Heights and Winter’s Bone is said by Moers to be an actualisation of the middle-class Victorian experience, where women’s freedom lay in their childhood with their male siblings. As male siblings were given more freedom as they aged, women’s lives became more restrictive: “Girls clung to this early freedom and equality and displaced them into their writing”. Ree’s journey into the Ozark landscape, and Cathy’s entrapment to the moors, both as young women are indicative of the female wish to remain in their childhood, and the physical violence apparent in both women reflects children’s physical teasing. Cathy’s and Ree’s metaphorical and literal imprisonment outside of the domestic home is also a subversion of traditional Victorian spheres. The domestic and public spheres represented where the influence of both genders lay. Men dominated the world outside the home, whereas women ruled what lay within the home. The domestic spheres played into the Victorian idea of “the angel in the house”, of the ideal woman, expected to be devoted and submissive to her husband.

Both Bronte and Woodrell challenge these ideals. Bronte challenges this by creating a lack of conventionally private or public spaces, therefore her novel evades traditional separation of men and women. Bronte exhibits this breakdown of separation through the extract: “We ran from the top of the Heights to the park, without stopping – Catherine completely beaten in the race, because she was barefoot … We crept through a broken hedge, groped our way up the path, and planted ourselves on a flower-pot under the drawing-room window. The light came from thence; they had not put up the shutters, and the curtains were only half closed … and clinging to the ledge, and we saw – ah! it was beautiful – a splendid place”. Cathy and Heathcliff exist here outside of the domestic space of Thrushcross Grange, they are more a part of the wilderness. The collective language used by Bronte “we”, “both of us” and the possessive pronoun “our” connect the two, as they are drawn into the socialized space, that eventually Cathy is taken into and feminized by the “reform”, implying that her change is a social construct, and is re-enforced by the Linton’s rather than a quality that is naturally ingrained in all women. The change in Cathy is an unnatural one, and she compares her separation from her true self, and Wuthering Heights as being cast out of heaven. “Heaven did not seem my home … I’ve no more business to marry Edgar Linton than I have to be in heaven” and rejects the “angel in the house” role.

Woodrell simultaneously rejects the ideals of the “angel in the house” role, and the ideals of “domestic spheres”. Ree is first established in the novel outside the domestic space, on the front steps of her house, as she watches meat hanging from the trees. In the cold weather, Ree stands alone amongst the “carcasses, hung pale of flesh with a fatty gleam from low limb”. The absurd image of the hanging, phallic meat and the indifferent reaction of Ree convey stoically how she rejects the ideals of femininity. Whilst she inhabits the traditional female caregiver role within her family, it is not by choice. Ree would much rather “get away from her family, as planned, off to the U.S. Army, where you got to travel with a gun”. Through Ree, Woodrell conveys the role that young women must inhabit in a brutal, masculine society. As Nataliya Lee says, “For men in Ree’s world there seem to be two options – meth and prison. For women it’s even less. There is obedience, loveless marriages, violence, and hard work” . Ree is set in contrast with the other young people in her community, who she describes using animalistic verbs, “huddled” “crouched” and “sated” in “she saw pregnant girls she knew huddled by their special side entrance holding textbooks and bumping bellies. She saw boys she knew sharing smoke, crouched beside their pickup trucks. She saw lovers she knew kissing back and forth with enough wet kisses to hold each sated and faithful until the lunch hour”. The animalistic behaviour re-enforces how Ree’s hyper-masculine society causes the people around her to react primally and impulsively. Woodrell’s society is so gendered that “Most places still had two front doors in accordance with certain readings of Scripture, one door for men, the other for women”.

Despite this, Ree exhibits some emotional traits, especially with her friend Gail, who also furthers the exploration of the “angel in the house role” in Winter’s Bone. Gail was “required by pregnancy to marry” the man who impregnated her at 16, and Ree constantly questions her decision, and how restricted she is by her husband; she describes how she’d “overnight become glued to her spot”. The subversion of this role, is presented not through Ree or Gail, however, but through Mrs Thump Milton, and the older women of her town. Mrs Milton, at first appears to be the perfect embodiment of the “angel in the house”. When she first meets Ree, she brings her a cup of hot soup, and appears to give her advice on how she shouldn’t ask questions about her father. When Ree returns, having exhausted all options, Mrs Milton and the older woman knock her unconscious: “Mrs. Thump’s white hair was done up in big pink rollers held in place by a mostly yellow scarf. the world flushed upside down in her eyes while her ears rang, and she staggered … One of Mrs. Thump’s rollers had jerked loose and dangled springy around her head … Ree swung a fist at those blunt teeth in a red mouth but missed … the mutters of beasts uncaged from women and she was sunk to a moaning place, kicked into silence”.

Throughout the extract, overly feminine symbols are used to contrast the heavy violence used by the older women upon Ree. Mrs. Thumps “rollers” her “red mouth” are all sinister signs that their true intentions were hidden underneath their feminine guises. The adjective “uncaged” is effectively used by Woodrell to convey how, despite their attempts to appear composed, the women’s animalistic violence is uncovered as they give into their primal urges. This is foreshadowed earlier in the novel, when Ree hides guns behind feminine clothes “She reached behind the rank of skirts and dresses hanging, into a far hidden corner, and retrieved two long guns”. Woodrell portrays here how overt femininity can be used to disguise your true, inherent violence, emphasised by the militaristic noun “rank”. It is through this experience that Ree learns whereas the overtly masculine males appear to be in control of Ree’s life and her community, it is the women of the town who secretly and subtly control the matriarchy.

It is implied by Woodrell that male primal instincts force them to behave irrationally, and unintelligently. This is what allows the calculating women of her town to take power, whilst allowing the violent, physical men to feel as though they’re in charge. “The most villainous mountain women can be felled not by gunshot but by that most subtle and feminine of weapons – round and round of righteous gossip” says Carolynn See on how Ree is treated by her elders .The climax of the novel appears when these same women finally lead Ree to her father’s resting place and force her to commit a violent act – to saw his hands off. “The ice gave as she stretched, and she fell into the pond. She felt Dad with her legs, bent into the water and raised him by pulling on his head. His skin felt like pickled eggs. She found the good hand and pulled it toward the chain saw. Her body was gone, she could not feel it below the neck, and a glow spread in her mind.” The extract is a parallel to how Ree forced her brother to kill and butcher a squirrel, from her slow “stretched hand” to the “warm” feeling felt by Ree, both are examples of how society enforces violence.

Similarly to Winter’s Bone, the resolution to the thematic build-up of masculinity comes not from the expected source of Heathcliff or Edgar, but from Hareton. Hareton is treated as a lower-class figure throughout the novel, because of his harsh treatment at the hands of Heathcliff. But with the help of Catherine, he removes the privilege of upper-class education from Catherine and Linton, and the class-constrictions on masculinity and is able to establish a fully-formed vision of masculinity through humility, and not brutality, as Heathcliff tries. In doing so, Hareton begins a chain reaction that leads to him coming to fully inhabit the traditional masculine figure of the gentleman that he was entitled to from birth, as he Catherine and presumably will inherit Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. Lockwood describes Hareton as “a young man, respectably dressed, and seated at a table, having a book before him. His handsome features glowed with pleasure”, which contrasts Lockwood’s initial description of Heathcliff: “in dress and manners a gentleman” and contrasts the resolution to Heathcliff’s arch in Wuthering Heights.

Gothic literature, both contemporary and Victorian, allows gender to be explored through extreme circumstance. Through extra-ordinary situations, women and men are allowed to traverse and break the lines between genders. In Winter’s Bone and Wuthering Heights, our gothic novelists create circumstantial societies to evaluate and subvert traditionally masculine and feminine roles. Bronte explores the strong female character as a reaction to the Victorian ideal of the “angel in the house” and it’s effect on Victorian masculinity, whilst Woodrell deconstructs the inherent violent masculinity within the strong female character and exposes it’s shortcomings.

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