My Friend Is the Man : Changing Masculinities, Otherness and Friendship in The Good Soldier and Women in Love

University essay from Umeå universitet/Institutionen för språkstudier

Abstract: This essay explores how masculinity is portrayed in The Good Soldier (Ford Madox Ford) and Women in Love (D.H Lawrence), and how Victorian and Edwardian masculinity ideals impact the friendships between the characters John Dowell and Edward Ashburnham and Rupert Birkin and Gerald Crich. The novels portray how hegemonic masculinity in Edwardian Britain changed from one type of masculinity, based on physical dominance, to include another, which drew on expert knowledge, capitalism and rationalism. In the texts, these masculinities are buttressed by the comparison to a male Other. In The Good Soldier, Edward Ashburnham stands for the ideals connected to dominance through his roles as landlord and soldier, and he is depicted as the “manlier” character in comparison to John Dowell. The same kind of coupling is found in Women in Love, where Gerald Crich represents both older ideals of dominance and newer ideals of expertise and rationality and Rupert Birkin is the relational opposite. Both Rupert Birkin and John Dowell are categorized as “not man” in the texts in order to emphasize that Edward Ashburnham and Gerald Crich are the “real” men. However, when the “manlier” characters have died both John Dowell and Rupert Birkin perpetuate masculine ideals, either by emulating hegemonic ideals or by redefining them. Furthermore, the Victorian and Edwardian conceptions of masculinity and male friendship inhibit the characters from forming emotionally close friendships. In both texts, emotional intimacy is portrayed as precarious and a more impersonal from of friendship that entails loyalty to a group or cause, camaraderie, is preferred. 

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