Tenderwire

One of the most striking aspects of Tenderwire so far is that Kilroy seems to be perpetuating ethnic and gender stereotypes throughout. It has been difficult for me to discern whether or not this novel is doing anything on a cultural, political, or social level besides keeping with the stereotypes present in mainstream society.
I found it unsettling that the novel focuses so much on the normalcy of alcoholism and its Irishness. This stereotype is reinforced every time that the narrator meets someone new, and Kilroy writes the novel as if the other characters understand or “write off” the narrator’a alcoholism because she is Irish. It is as if the other characters (who are not Irish) assume it is the inevitable. This is also true with Alexander, the Russian, who has vodka (even stashes it under his chair at the bar).

Other stereotypes are reinforced. Daniel, the investor, is stereotypically ignorant or art, specifically orchestra dynamics. Society usually deems those who are in a “profession of numbers” as incapable of respecting or understanding art/music, especially of the classical nature.

Additionally, gender stereotypes are maintained and reinforced. The female narrator is unreliable, and her character is weak and unstable–characteristics long and often attributed to women. Kilroy does nothing to attempt to subvert these patriarchal dynamics except for perhaps giving the narrator control of her relationships with male characters. Even then, however, the narrator must still seek help from the male character: she asks Daniel for money, asks David for more money, uses her father’s money, seeks Zach’s opinion of the violin. The narrator isn’t in any way independent or self-reliant. Dependency, however, might not have been such a patriarchal quality had the narrator relied on Valentina, her mother, or other female characters and established a sense of female community. But this does not happen. Rather, the narrator is sustained through the male characters and the female characters are pushed away.

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White Teeth (Chapters 7-9)

Although Zadie Smith constructs Samad as a complex character in relation to Archie, his position in multicultural London society showcases anti-feminism and presents him as the “supermale” of the novel.  Despite two previous feminist movements in the Western world, Samad is an example of the backlash that surmounted in the 80’s responding to the increasing empowerment of women.

Leading up to Chapter Ten, Samad is portrayed as super masculine in his ideas and actions, especially in the way he treats women.  In Chapter Seven, Samad demeans Poppy during one of their meetings by suggesting that the two of them are incapable of discussing or acting any thing other than the “physical.”  In this section of the text, Samad makes Poppy feel as if she does not have the authority to speak about “metaphysical” issues, suggesting that those topics are left for men to talk about (151).   Samad quickly reiterates this point again, when they have a small spat, Poppy’s feelings are obviously hurt, and Samad attempts to make it better by focusing the discussion back to fulfilling his sexual desires, admitting to Poppy that he wants to “spend the night” with her (151).  Poppy is a sex object that Samad uses to his advantage, even though he portrays the affair innocently when asked about having sex.  Samad dehumanizes Poppy again when he ends their affair suddenly (because of his sons), without seeming to care about Poppy’s feelings at all.

Samad’s disinterest in his wife’s feelings also illuminates him as a patriarch in the novel.  Rather than feeling guilty or thinking about his wife during his meetings with Poppy, Samad again and again focuses on the negative impacts he is having on his two sons.  Samad is worried only about the other two males in his life, and this seems to be majorly for religion’s sake.

Samad as Muslim in the novel dramatically reinforces patriarchal tendencies to need to hold on to tradition and return to the past.  Although a section of the novel attempts to differentiate between religion and tradition, it is intertwined for Samad.  Samad strongly earns for his roots and wishes for his sons to experience and know the tradition of his culture, so much that he sends Migad back to Bengal despite disaster and bloodshed.   For Samad, the power of tradition and knowing one’s culture is more important the potential harm it might cause to his son.  This is an important point in the construction of Samad as a symbol of patriarchy because it displays the attitudes Samad has toward progression and the dichotomies he creates because of it.  Samad views progression as immorality, and the rigid rituals of his religion reinforce the patriarchal fear of women’s empowerment.  Samad ridicules and even beats Alsana because she is not as traditional as he; he accuses her of swallowing England whole (166).  As the physical fight ensues, it becomes more obvious that Samad is resentful to anyone who does not wish to hold onto the roots of their past, even if those roots are tainted by false memories and nostalgia.