This preview has intentionally blurred parts. Sign up to view the full document

View Full Document

Unformatted Document Excerpt

Questions of Victorian Ideas of Masculinity and Femininity By: Conlan Shiono Due: 3/14/08 Both All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque and <a href="/keyword/sofia-petrovna/" >sofia petrovna</a> by Lydia Chukovskaya raised questions and formulated new ideas that concerned Victorian ideals about masculinity and femininity. Remarque's descriptions of the German soldiers in World War I as emotional and timid being part of the &quot;Lost Generation&quot; contrasted Victorian masculinity that concerned men who formed the background as strong supporters, financially, to their families. Not only that, but Chukovskaya's depictions of women facing the terrors of the Great Purge as aggressive and courageous problem-solvers independent of men contrasted Victorian views on femininity. The impact of terror and war during twentieth-century Europe erased all views of Victorian ideals of masculinity and femininity and showed that middle-class differences between women and men happened to be obsolete. Remarque's portrayal of the German soldiers in World War I greatly contrasted the Victorian ideals in the middle class. Around the middle of the nineteenth century, men had considered themselves as the wage earners in factories and also the main supporters of their families. Remarque contrasted these ideas by describing Paul Baumer and his fellow soldiers as part of the &quot;Lost Generation&quot; due to the fact that the youth of the military did not have anything to return to back at home while the older soldiers had past jobs they could resume and look forward to. Work to the middle-class towards Victorian ideals of masculinity became important to judge one another and find status among others. When the young teenage soldiers of World War I returned home, the lost years of the war they sadly became apart of and the ideal of being a soldier first further hurt the young men's status to assimilate themselves back into Victorian models of masculinity. Paul and all the soldiers who fought in World War I grew up knowing only of the strong presence of war and little of anything else. Remarque's description of the soldiers, however, did not seem to be considered aggressive, calculating, and courageous, but actually just the opposite. Remarque depicted the soldiers as truly emotional towards one another and timid of the vast terrors of trench warfare and fighting in general. One key example described Paul's fatal encounter with a French soldier who he stabbed and killed. Paul's reaction of strong emotion and guilt towards &quot;the dead painter&quot; culminated the contradictions that soldiers of the war as stone-hearted and aggressive. He even learned the dead painter's name as Gerard Duval, a husband and a father of two, which furthered Paul's emotional breakdown and personal connection between himself and the dead soldier1. The impact the horrors of the war had on men, as described by Remarque, brought out a sense of strong emotion that men did not possess as part of the nineteenth century Victorian ideals. Most men at the height of Victorian ideals chose to separate themselves from emotion and nurturing as the issue of keeping a job became more of a priority. While women tended to be keepers of the household and the biggest influence over their children, men went to work to support their families. Masculinity depicted by Remarque seemed to become more docile and timid as greater emotion flowed out of soldiers that had always carried the title of heartless killing machines. Not only did masculinity of Victorian ideals change in the twentieth century due to war, so did femininity in Chukovskaya's descriptions of women during the terrifying time of the Great Purge. 1 Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front (New York: Ballantine Books, 1996), ch. 9. Chukovskaya's portrayal of Sofia broke all conventions of Victorian ideals of femininity. Not only did Sofia live the life of a single-mother working in a typing office as senior typist, she also depicted herself as aggressive and calculating in hopes of finding her wrongly arrested son, Kolya. As Victorian ideals of femininity described, women became depicted to be the homemaker and the caretaker who managed the household and the children while the men went to work2. With her husband dead and the radical change of Soviet society, Sofia supported herself and her son when she obtained both roles of the family. In Stalin's society, he proclaimed that all women should be equal to men and that both should equally contribute as part of the Communist Soviet Union3. Because of this, Sofia went to work and earned a wage that supported her life and well-being that helped her survive. She not only worked, but she took over a position that carried importance as she controlled decisions made in the typing office on a daily basis. At the same time Sofia assumed the role of the nurturing mother who worried for her son everyday and made sure food became ready to eat when she returned home every night. Sofia being able to work independent of others in which she assumed a role of importance created strong contrasts of Victorian ideals. Sofia did not work strictly in the house as a caretaker, but assumed the role of an everyday job that women of the nineteenth-century could not become a part of until spurs of war came upon Europe. Chukovskaya also depicts Sofia's character as self-calculating and able to aggressively pursue the mystery of her son, Kolya's, disappearance. 2 John P. McKay, et al., A History of Western Society (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006) p. 807. 3 John P. McKay, et al., A History of Western Society (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006) p. 962. Sofia, as described by Chukovskaya, is considered a woman who can fend and think for herself and in the sad end release all sense of emotional response towards her son to save herself from questioning and prosecution during the Great Purge. Seen as independent of a man's wages, Sofia became independent of other people's opinions and became able to calculate for herself what had become of everyone who disappeared in the Great Purge. Because of the terror caused by the Great Purge, Sofia did not remain docile and timid as her son's disappearance ate at her everyday. Sofia assumed the role that men tended to assume as part of Victorian ideals and became courageous in her efforts to find what had become of her own son, Kolya. Sofia learned the procedures of standing in line at the prosecutor's office and learned when and where to be at the right time that allowed her to be more efficient in which she obtained more information about her son's wrongful imprisonment4. Chukovskaya's depiction of Sofia at the end culminated the contrasting views of women being seen as emotional and nurturing as she is forced to cut off all ties with her son. Caused by all the terrors of the Great Purge, Sofa burned the letter from Kolya that asked for her help because she knew from a conversation with her comrade, Kiparisova, that if she responded, she would be questioned and would face the same tragic fate as Kolya and probably be deported5. Sofia is forced to oppress her emotion and forget about her son to save her own life and lose the nurturing qualities that the housewife and mother obtained as part of nineteenth-century Victorian ideals. Overall, the nineteenth-century Victorian ideals of masculinity and femininity starkly contrasted and brought to question by the culmination of war and terror in twentieth-century Europe. Men and women became seen as more of equals as men, from 4 5 Lydia Chukovskaya. <a href="/keyword/sofia-petrovna/" >sofia petrovna</a> (Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 1988) p. 56. Lydia Chukovskaya. <a href="/keyword/sofia-petrovna/" >sofia petrovna</a> (Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 1988) p. 108-109. Remarque's depiction, showed the emotional and nurturing abilities that had not been seen before as women, from Chukovskaya's descriptions, became more independent and strived as more courageous and aggressive in their personalities. World War I rattled their psyches of and the Great Purge terrorized them both as the &quot;natural&quot; differences between men and women seemed to become nonexistent and the Victorian ideals that people once followed became obsolete and irrational. ... View Full Document

End of Preview

Sign up now to access the rest of the document