Gender in The Rainbow
The differences between men and women have been distinguished since the beginning of time. Though traditional gender roles by circumstance often portray the niche best exuded by a gender, it is undeniable that the emblematic characteristics accredited to a specific sex are often false. For example, the belief that men are the true movers-and-shakers of the world is misleading. Gender stereotypes are the most basic form of oppression, for they limit one’s right of choice. D.H. Lawrence’s The Rainbow characterizes it’s heroine as the master of her own fate by way of juxtaposing the men and the women of the farm, ultimately conveying the notion that women are the foundation of change. The combination of juxtaposing the men to the singular woman, as well as the contrast between the city and the country men, decidedly predicts the use of active voice to empower the protagonist of the piece.
The juxtaposition of the male and female roles of the farm is represented in the use of referring to each gender as “the men” and “the woman”. Not only is the significant approximate number of each sex stated in this terminology, but also their niche. While the protagonist’s husband “looked out to the back at sky and harvest and beast and land”, we as the reader can understand that the environment supporting the story in one that is in the favour of men, being the stronger of the sexes, to farm the land in which the novel is set. Thus, many men are needed, while in comparison, “the woman” signifies her stature and class in the society of the farm. Likely, this woman is the wife of the landlord of the farm, and perhaps these many men are hired hands. We can presume that her life is one that is kept indoors for her work; cleaning, caring, and cooking for the workers is not an unlikely duty for a woman of the time. It is this juxtaposition of roles and stature that is represented by the use of “the men” versus “the woman.”
Another juxtaposition established within The Rainbow is the identities of the different types of men that the protagonist sees. The woman envisions men in “the far off world of cities and governments” while in front of her she can only see that “it was enough for the men … that they lived full and surcharged.” The discrepancy of the men leads her to wonder what is the true difference between them, and eventually comes to the conclusion that “it was a question of knowledge.” Simply put, the men in far off cities knew better so they did better, while the men on the farm were content with their way of life and had a sense of pride about the work they did. This represents the kind of life that the protagonist envisions for herself; she desires knowledge and discovery and wants a man who wants the same things as her. As the wife of a farmer, her frame of knowledge is limited. Her yearning to seek a higher level of understanding, inspired by the contrasting of the men, is what drives the stream of consciousness of the piece.
The syntactical structure of the excerpt characterizes the woman through the use of active voice. Sentences such as “She knew her husband” example this by use of putting the noun before the verb, as is done often with the woman describing her life on the farm. Many of the sentences in the piece do begin with female pronouns, serving to represent the woman’s belief in herself and her understanding of what she desires most in life. From this simple structuring of putting the pronoun before the verb, the reader immediately identifies the woman as the focus of the story and recognizes the woman’s needs as importance. “Her house faced out from the farm-buildings and fields” is an easily identifiable sentence of power. The house is described as belonging to the woman, that which would be uncommon considering the time period. Active voice is the principle identification of the woman’s determination and character.
D.H. Lawrence’s use of juxtaposition and active voice in his novel The Rainbow clearly define the woman’s greatest wishes and characterizes her as a pillar of determination and a bringer of change. Such characterization begs the question that gender stereotypes are more often than not untrue, and that to see a person’s true character you must look past their gender. From this the reader can understand that the differences between men and women are not in their genetics and gender, but in their character.
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