Archive for the ‘Interesting Read: Book Discussion/Literary Analysis’ Category

Persepolis ~ Literary Analysis   Leave a comment


1. Describe the symbolism and conflict represented in the left picture on the top of page 6.
There is symbolism and conflict represented in the left picture on the top of page 6. The image is divided into two halves within the panel. On the left, Marjane’s unveiled upper body portrays her hair, free of hijab and shows gears, wheels, a hammer and a ruler. On the right, veiled side she is appropriately dressed in a chador, while the background is decorated in a pattern of leaves and vines like a Persian design. The left side symbolizes modernism and material objects, while the right indicates fundamentalism. The left versus the right represents her dilemmas, a contrast between tradition on the right, and science and technology on the left.



2. Between her reasons for wanting to be a prophet and her set of rules (Pages 6 and 7) what inferences can you draw about the young girl’s character/personality?
Marjane believes that she is the last prophet. One frame depicts her image of herself as a prophet, the sun manes her head and people bow before her proclaiming her the celestial light. She has a deep connection to her faith and her personality revealed innocence and hope. Between her reasons for wanting to be a prophet and her set of rules there appears to be many inferences drawn about the young girl’s character and personality.
Being a prophet means somebody who is strong willed with good intentions, transmits the commands of a deity and who advocates for a cause or idea. She identifies herself with the great prophets of the past dating back to Zarathustra. She imagines herself as a symbol of love and tolerance. Marjane’s set of rules advocates for the abolishment of social classes, “Because our maid did not eat with us” (6). Her character struggles to understand why her family is fortunate. She is aware of her own class advantages and has strong beliefs as she defends the working class while retaining upper class privileges even though her parents are Marxist which includes a Cadillac and a maid. Once she recognizes both the political and social issues of Iran, she loses her faith, “Shut up, you! Get out of my life!!! I never want to see you again!” (70).

3. How does the author use visual symbolism in the picture at the bottom of Page 9?
The author uses visual symbolism in the picture at the bottom of Page 9 by portraying an explanation of juxtaposes one image against another. The first, meaning justice as she holds a scale representing fairness and righteousness with a serious look in her eyes, the second portrays happiness and love while the third, is the warrior with a mean look as the defender of all, the wrath of God. It attempts to balance the moral and political beliefs between stereotypes and what is real, between knowledge and ignorance.

4. Explain the simile on page 10 and identify its place (meaning) in the book’s overall theme and plot.
The theme depicts the rule of the Shah, the disillusionment of the revolution and the realities of living under the severe public rules. The simile on page 10 and the correlation between the theme and plot is, “The revolution is like a bicycle. When the wheels don’t work, it falls.” It depicts people piled up on a bicycle that is stationary. It’s a representation of Iran and its domino effect. The Shah needs keep his promises or people will rebel. When the people rebel they are killed because they love their country and everything stops working. Her grandmother commented, “You know, my child, since the dawn of time, dynasties have succeeded each other but the Kings always kept their promises. The Shah kept none…” (27), and so he must fall.

5. What metaphor does the author use on page 11 to portray the Persian people during 2500 years of tyranny and submission?
A snapshot of hundreds of years is encompassed by a single panel of invaders. The metaphor used on page 11, “After a long sleep of 2500 years, the revolution has finally awakened the people” portrays the Persian people during 2500 years of tyranny and submission. The panel is divided into four lines of images each portraying an event in Iran’s history, from oppressive rule to conquest to imperialism. The words guide the reader through a long line of invaders into Persia/Iran and ending with Uncle Sam. It depicted those who are rulers and the people being ruled creating a chronological sequence reflecting its history. First they dealt with
their own emperors in history then, there was the Arab invasion in which the soldiers are shown as baffled and confused. This is followed by the Mongolian invasion which seemed disorganized then came modern imperialism wearing sunglasses and an air of arrogance, yet inept rulers ending with Uncle Sam, but his eyes are closed to the violence.

6. What can one infer from picture on page 13 (middle) in terms of symbolism and irony?
The image is symbolic of an inner struggle between religion and politics. Marjane is questioning her faith, seeing the similarities and the difference between the two. Marjane is aware of the social injustices going on around her. She has a sense that she can do more with her life than what she is doing right now. Her parents are proud of the fact that she wants to make some type of difference in the world. Marjane feels that she wants to be a prophet so that she can abolish social classes, allow everyone to drive a Cadillac like her father, and to make her grandmother not ache anymore. The irony is she is living an elite lifestyle and fighting for the “other” side.

7. Respond to the imagery on page 15.
The reader grasps the tragic results of police brutality killing four hundred victims, unwilling to release the burning victims from the theatre on page 15. An urban battlefield is produced by police violence against civilians. The ghostly souls are depicting the qualities of the Tehran’s civil turmoil. In a sense the author is honoring the dead through sequencing and provides a perspective of tension while displaying the lack of humanitarianism. The theatre size shrinks which increases the stature of the police. The above view of the riot left the reader to fill in the blanks of the event whereas, the souls are seen at eye level during the violence that takes place in the theatre.

8. Why do the writer’s parents find her request to play Monopoly humorous? (Page 18)
Marjane’s parents find her request to play monopoly humorous because it is a capitalist game and they had spent the day protesting against the Shah whom is a capitalist, “Monopoly! I can’t believe it. Ha Ha” (18).

9. What might Marji’s refusal to play Monopoly symbolize on Page 25?
Marjane’s refusal to play Monopoly symbolized her desire experience what it felt like to be in a cell filled with water as her grandfather. She tried to recreate the torture he endured, “My hands were wrinkled when I came out, like grandpa’s.” (25).

10. Comment on the image at the bottom of page 22. What change does it reflect?
The image on page 22 depicts a dream sequence with her great grandfather described as the last emperor of Persia. Her grandfather is seen as a young man riding an elephant with symbols of royalty around him such as, castles, the sun and a lion with a sword. He represents freedom for innocent people. Is he also chosen by God? The teachings from home and school were contradicting each other. As well as teachers, Marjane was certain that God also told her the Shaw was sent by God. She was confused and thought, “Maybe God helped them nevertheless” (22), the children often receive mixed messages while being instructed into a new belief system.

11. Where does the author employ exposition to reveal both family and national back-story (background)?
The author employs exposition to reveal family   in the beginning of the story with her mother being portrayed as feminist fighting for the women in Iran who had their individual expression and freedoms repressed, “At one demonstration, a German journalist took a photo of my mother” (5). Her father begins to explain the history of their country and it is revealed that Marjane’s grandfather had been a prince before Reza Shah came to power and, after had been the Prime Minister of Iran. In the chapter, “Moscow” Marjane learns that her Uncle Anoosh had been in prison and she is proud that he is a hero of the Revolution. Marjane has a maid named Mehri who introduces the class conflict, “But is it her fault that she was born where she was???” (37). Mehri’s parents had given Mehri to the Satrapi’s as a child because they had too many children to feed.
The author employs exposition to reveal the national backstory by describing tension between the past and present. It reveals the sleeping people, “After a long sleep of 2500 years, the revolution has finally awakened the people,” the clash between police and civilians (11), “They forbade people to rescue those locked inside” (14), daily protests, “My parents demonstrated ever day” (18), and depicted inhumane acts, “I never imagined that you could use that appliance for torture” (51). Marjane’s pride in her history is in direct conflict with the imprisonment of political revolutionaries.

12. In terms of the book’s overall theme and meaning, how does exposition in the chapter entitled “Persepolis” shed light on the 1979 revolution that overthrew the Shah of Iran?
The exposition in the chapter entitled “Persepolis” sheds light on the 1979 revolution that overthrew the Shah of Iran by describing Iran’s history of both great wealth and poverty. The Shah kept no promises and money had been spent frivolously. The sentiment of a dying a young man in the revolution is to be considered a martyr as Eby takes note while taking photographs at the hospital. But, ironically, as a second dead man is carried out on a stretcher during the demonstration, the dead man was thought to be a hero even though his widow told them he had died of cancer. It is seen that The 1979 Revolution is characterized a Marxist revolution accepted
by the urban culturally privileged on behalf of the disadvantaged people in Iran.

13. Satrapi has a way of expressing powerful thoughts in the most concise terms. Describe this talent for word choice and meaning in the last box of Page 37.
The talent used for the word choice in the last box of Page 37 is original and accurately describes empathy and compassion through words and an image. Marjane begins to recognize the injustice in the class system.

14. What one or two sentences in the book impress you as being quite powerful? Please explain.
I found this sentence powerful, “There are lots of heroes in my family. My grandpa was in prison, my uncle Anoosh too: for nine years!” (61). Marjane has a number of heroes. Her Uncle Anoosh and her grandfather are two of them because they were in prison and suffered. She felt that being locked up meant that you are a good person. She believed that being locked up in prison meant that you did something good and that the “bad” government imprisoned a person because of it.

15. What scenes or images or text cause some of the more powerful emotions intended for the reading audience?
One image and text that evokes powerful emotions intended for the reading audience is, “In the end he was cut to pieces” (52). This refers to the inhumane torture. A second image is of the ghostly souls being burned in the theatre, “…But the people knew it was the Shah’s fault!!!” (15). It depicts the dead through sequencing as the tension increases.

16. Please add and respond to any of your own analytical questions.
I would like to add my own analytical question:
What is the mirror motif within the story?
The mirror is not only a reflection of a person’s outer being but also echoes the inner soul. The mirror motif begins on page 5 as the reader sees the mother’s reflection in a mirror. She is frowning with a worried look depicting doubt of self. She needs to change her appearance for personal safety. Page 16 depicts Marjane’s reflection and is compared to Fidel Castro revealing an new found ambiguity in herself as she begins to lose her faith. Page 53 shows Marjane’s reflection of guilt, a sense of fragmentation from the playground tortures. And on Page 68 the reader views the Marjane uncertain about her identity revealing and shows her instability.

Work Cited
Satrapi, Marjane. Persepolis: The story of a childhood. New York: Pantheon Books, 2003.



Let’s Discuss Michael Useem’s The Leadership Moment: Nine True Stories of Triumph and Disaster and Their Lessons for Us All and William CaldWell’s Leadership in a Time of Crisis: Creating a Legacy That Can Stand the Test of Time   Leave a comment

In Michael Useem’s The Leadership Moment: Nine True Stories of Triumph and Disaster and Their Lessons for Us All, chapter 2, “Wagner Dodge Retreats in Mann Gulch” described crisis when a leader must decisively demonstrate leadership qualities. As a leader Wagner understood the severity of the crisis, acted quickly in changing the plans of achieving a goal and creatively decided how to limit the danger of his team. The first problem of his leadership ability was lack of communication and little time to know and interact with his followers. When the group was assembled they had little time to understand one another’s behaviors and actions. The crew knew of their leader from his past history yet, the leader was a man of few words and did not or could not communicate his thoughts effectively in time of crisis. First, his credibility decreased when Wagner left his men alone and second, when Wagner lit a match to begin a new blaze of fire for life saving purposes his leadership capabilities came into question as Sallee remarked, I saw him bend over and light a fire with a match. I thought, with the fire almost on out back, what the hell is the boss doing, lighting another fire in front of us? (53). All men watched their leader and it seemed he was not being truthful with them and did not live up to the critical values of their professional culture. He lost their confidence and in turn most lost their lives. Did Wagner recognize the panic and pressure felt by his team? In my opinion, he did not take a moment and put himself in their shoes to see and feel their confusion as he flagged them to follow him into the circle of fire in order to save their lives.

            In chapter 3, “Eugene Kranz Return Apollo 13 to Earth” described crisis when a leader must decisively demonstrate leadership qualities. As panic set in in Mission Control Kranz applied his leadership capability to listen. He gathered specific individuals for their knowledge and experience, grouped them accordingly and gave them the responsibility of coming up with various solutions to a life or death problem for a helpless crew in space. He responded quickly to the issues at hand, consulted with experts and was honest to the potential dangers that laid ahead as he stated you learn to communicate and asses data; you learn to make reasonably crisp and authoritative decisions; you learn to admit when you don’t know what’s going on and ask for help (89). Kranz stayed calm, used all of his resources, was an effective communicator in telling the story and deciphering the different outcomes through other’s input in order to plan a safe return. He utilized lateral leadership and creative thinking to identify different plans in simulating conclusions through testing prior to making his final decision. Everyone involved was a hero and a leader in their own right. What if groupthink occurred as it did in 1986 for the Space Challenger? I believe that groupthink played a significant factor and major contributor to the Challenger disaster. It is a term referred to the preference of group members to have the same opinions and beliefs which, in that case lead to numerous errors. It is like having a bunch of yes men in a room. Each member of Kranz’s team had different insights and knowledge in which they shared honestly with one another leading to their goal with a successful outcome.

            In chapter 5, “Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain Defends Little Round Top” described crisis when a leader must decisively demonstrate leadership qualities. As a leader Chamberlain was faced with a major decision regarding the mutineers, he could force the men forward under armed guard. He could try to recruit them, persuading them to take up arms with the 20th Main. Or he could wait until the men were derelict in their duties and shoot them (128). He utilized two important skills as a leader, communication and listening. He listened to the soldier’s complaints and spoke to them man to man. He understood their position and influenced them to join the fight and cause. He treated each as an equal rather than a criminal. He bonded by telling the story of his need for them to be by his side. He had taken a negative situation and reversed it by his actions and behavior and described them by stating that they were some of the best soldiers in the regiment (145).

     A leader, who is able to read the signals of looming crisis and understands how to harness the exigency brought on by the situation, can diminish the potential dangers and take full advantage of the resulting opportunities. In order to understand the real reasons for the crisis, everyone on the leadership team must be willing to tell the whole truth. Leaders can’t solve problems if they don’t acknowledge their existence.

In a crisis, many leaders act like Atlas, carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. They go into isolation, and think they can solve the problem themselves. In reality, leaders must have the help of all their people to devise solutions and to implement them. This means bringing people into their confidence, asking them for help and ideas, and gaining their commitment to painful corrective actions. If there are sacrifices to be made – and there will be – then the leaders should step up and make the greatest sacrifices themselves. Everyone is watching to see what the leaders do. Will they stay true to their values? Will they bow to external pressures, or confront the crisis in a straight-forward manner? Will they be seduced by short-term rewards, or will they make near-term sacrifices in order to fix the long-term situation?

The emergency phase begins when the crisis erupts. If an organizational leader fails to examine their fundamental assumptions of the world, connect the dots to see the big picture, or think differently from everyone else, that leader risks experiencing devastating tragedy and crisis.

Is a leader considered a good leader because of crisis? I believe that how a leader reacts during a (potential) disaster and their actions reveal their true essence to their team. In chapter 4, “Arlene Blum Ascends Annapurna” adds a perspective that we might not have otherwise considered only reading the material in the previous modules. Blum used empowerment, shared knowledge and information so her team could make successful decisions on whether to continue on or turn back due to the dangers that lay ahead. She utilized feedback from her team to learn her style of leadership. Leadership is a learned skill, and Arlene Blum was enrolled in the school of direct experience (112). We discussed leadership as a learned behavior, but how is it learned and from who? Prior readings suggest mentors, upper management and teachers as a way to learn while incorporating listening skills to those who held experience.

            What she intended her team to consist of was seasoned climbers with experience above 20,000 feet, but unfortunately they were far and few between. One of her challenges was to find women with strong records despite their age as the youngest member was only 20 years old. Blum’s leadership also included understanding other’s reasoning of why they were there which in turn strengthened her own leadership capabilities. In her case, she took it a step further by reviewing individual motives as each individual had a specific reason for reaching the top while keeping in mind that they all had a common goal, everyone wants to win. According to Useem, Blum even considered refusing to announce later who had reached the summit so that all of her climbers could glory in full credit for attaining it (105).

Caldwell’s speech, “Leadership in a Time of Crisis,” further contributes to this discussion by describing “Honest Abe” a leader who could influence the nation through bonding, his actions by standing for what was right and storytelling. He did not lead within four walls of a room, but felt it was crucial to see and hear his men at war so he could employ empowerment to all. Caldwell mentioned, Lincoln spent more time out of the White House than he did in it. He regularly visited troops in the field (216). His performance set good examples by listening while creating trust and respect. He felt the need to understand people’s opinions on issues, what they wanted, and through his knowledge shaped his own political abilities.

            Lincoln dealt with adverse reactions to his words and deeds, yet he never held resentment that would cloud his decision making instead he wrote letters that were never sent. His decisions and conduct were based on the good of the country regardless of the negative feedback he dealt with. He was kind to others while his empathy shined through. His personal tragedies helped not only in public speaking but also in conveying sympathy to those who needed it most. Caldwell reported, Lincoln would later use his personal tragedy to comfort others and help them through similar situations (216).

When we speak of Abraham Lincoln, we speak of the true spirit of leadership and what it means to be a great leader.

A real life example of a leader who actually caused crisis within his own country was François “Papa Doc” Duvalier. During the twenty nine year period (1957-1986) that Haiti was ruled by the father and son dictators, François “Papa Doc” and Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, referred to as rural chief, a brutal regional leader and torturer who killed dissidents under the regime.

            “Papa Doc” President Duvalier’s dictatorship exploited the labor force of people and took control with the deception of handing power to the black majority, but in reality it was for himself, for his personal executioners called the Tontons Macoutes, and for the elite, who continued to prosper under his murderous governmental corruption. The country was considered a large prison where power, control, torture and murders were part of the everyday life. In Haiti there was a division between the people: those who supported the presidency and those who were opposed. Children grieved and lost their fathers who either fled the country or died disagreeing with the President.

Everyone whether a leader or not has gone through some type of tragedy for example, losing a loved one. What I found most interesting and most admirable within the reading was Lincoln’s empathy trait towards others. Not only did he enter the war zone to empower his soldiers, but he took the time to respond with hand written letters filled with heart felt sentiments regarding loss as he too could relate and understand a parents feelings. He treated the nation as if it were his own child with love, guidance and a touch of humanity which is rarely seen in today’s leaders.

hand_rightWork Cited

Caldwell, William B. IV. Leadership in a Time of Crisis: Creating a Legacy That Can Stand the Test of Time. 2009. 12 Nov. 2012  <;.

Useem, Michael. The Leadership Moment: Nine True Stories of Triumph and Disaster and Their Lessons for Us All. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1998.

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Novel Without A Name by Duong Thu Huong ~ My Thoughts on Defiance against Oppression   Leave a comment

Vietnam and its people were the “others”…right? Is this the reason for the title…kind of like an identity crisis?

Is it a portrayal of the destruction of the identity of the conquered to make them easier to govern?

Thank you, Duong Thu Huong for enlightening everyone on your book, “Novel without a name.” I believe through my research and knowledge, that little interest has been directed toward publishing your novel in Vietnam, could this reflect on how the Vietnamese War – Marxist society disagrees with the postcolonial theory. Could this explain the lack of postcolonial studies of this country and why your novel has never been allowed to publish within Vietnam?


            As I look through the lens of Postcolonial, this novel made me question the characters, motives and interactions within the circumstances that led to hybridity, new identities, divisions, borders (Eastern front, Western front, the strategic regions, A, B, C and X) and a break down within their society. Vietnam is comprised of fifty four different ethnic groups and the novel illustrates how hybridity was utilized to combine a multifaceted system created by the repressive influential configuration in the North Vietnamese postcolonial society.

The subcategories that hybridity seeped into were:

1) Racial, 2) Linguistic, 3) Cultural, 4) Religious, and 5) Diaspora  

1. Racial – Miss Hoa, Quan’s first love, became pregnant and was denounced by her people and it was possible that her child would have been born of a mixed race…someone from another native village, residence or district. “Last year, the village Party committee drafted her. Poor girl. By the end of the year, she was pregnant. No one wanted to claim the child. She refused to denounce the father. Shamed, her parents threw her out” (p. 139).

2. Linguistic – When Quan was heading to “Zone K” and met a young Van Kieu man named Te Chieng he asked, “How many miles off is it?” and the young man’s response was, “What’s a mile?” (p. 70).

            The shorter man on the freight train stated, “ ‘Comrade’ can mean many things. From a linguistic point of view, it’s a lie. From a historical point of view, it’s an adaptation. And from a practical angle, well, it’s just a leader’s trick” (p. 159).

3. Culture – While saying goodbye to his liaison, Quan took out a can of meat and stated, “This is the last one I’ve got left. You have it comrade.  The agent, “…scrutinized it like a connoisseur. “This is a real luxury for an ordinary soldier” (p. 34).

            Mr. Buu commented that, “They study their Marxism-Leninism, and then come and pillage our vegetable gardens and rice fields with Marx’s blessing. In the name of class struggle, they seduce other men’s women” (p. 133).

            A. Colonial subjects – The incident of soldiers shooting crates of medicine and Quan’s response, “This is medicine, energy food. The stuff they inject you with when you’re in the army hospital. His answer, “No Chief, you’ve got it wrong, Tuan shrieked. They …they injected me with Soviet medicine” (p. 270).

4. Religion – The little fat man stated, “Well? Did you see that? A nation of imbeciles. They need a religion to guide them and a whip to educate them” (p. 167).

5. Diaspora – Quan was caught in a personal and national identity crisis. Lye stated, “Otherness includes doubleness, both identity and difference, so that every other, every different than and excluded by is dialectically created and includes the values and meaning of the colonizing culture even as it rejects its power to define.”


The concept of violence is one that I don’t believe is new to the postcolonial concern. Within your novel the characters transform by changes in their status resulting in judging individuals in a different light. Zelia wrote, “ ‘Othering’: the process by which, through shifts in position, any given group can be ignored, trivialized, rendered invisible and unheard, perceived as inconsequential, de-authorized, “Other”, or threatening, while others are valorized” (Geever, 1990, p. 7).

            Quan had been invited to an elite group by Vu, “Ha, ha – your district is right next to mine! We’re from the same province. So shall we swear to eternal brotherhood in the peach garden? Our little club already has about twenty-three members, and that’s just in my division. You want to sign up?” (p.201).

            Quan and Kha shared a secret, they were both others in an army that had gone through withdrawing and reflecting, regrouping and rearming, all the while they were losing any sense of what the war was for and what they were fighting for, “I’ve thought a lot. I also listen to everything that’s said. You see, the people, they do exist from time to time, but they’re only a shadow. When they need rice, the people are the buffalo that pulls the plow. When they need soldiers, they cover the people with armor, put guns in the people’s hands. When is all is said and done, at the festivals, when it comes time for the banquets, they put the people on an alter, and feed them incense and ashes. But the real food, that’s always for them” (p. 275).


 It seemed that in your novel the colonial subjectivity laid the foundation for mimicry, those who were raised to believe without resistance. Such as Commander Dao Tien when he stated, “My generation, we joined the army as soon as we reached the age to do our patriotic duty” (p. 75).

Utopia of a National Identity

 The soldiers believed in a utopian society that would rise above the limitations imposed by boundaries, as was Quan, “This war was not simply another war against foreign aggression; it was also our chance for a resurrection. Vietnam had been chosen by History: After the war, our country would become humanity’s paradise. Our people would hold a rank apart. At last we would be respected, honored, revered. We believed this, so we turned away from those tears of weakness” (p. 31).



 Tyson stated, “To be unhomed is to feel not at home even in your own home because you are not at home with yourself: your cultural identity crisis has made you a psychosocial refugee, so to speak” (p.421) Quan reminisces of his childhood, mother, young friends, remembers songs, poems and his dreams as these are his only connection to the culture he holds close to his heart.” The combination of these mimics reflects his lost culture. “I dream: A radiant young man leads me through a field of roses. The sun rises. A few wisps of fog still chasing some crazy dream. The air is fragrant. Roses bloom, opening passionately all the way to the horizon. We walk silently, obstinately” (p. 153).

 “Quan The Impassive”


Huong, D. T. (1995). Novel without a name. New York: Penguin Group.

Lye, J. (1988). Some Issues in Postcolonial Theory. Retrieved December 9, 2009, from

Tyson, L. (2006). Critical Theory today. New York: Routledge.

Zelia, G. (2004). De-Scribing Hybridity in “Unspoiled Cyprus”: Postcolonial Tasks for the Theory of Education.  Comparative Education., 40 (2), 241-266.

From the Equality State to a City of Hate: The New History ~ The Laramie Project (Matthew Shepard)   Leave a comment



Thank you for giving me the time to discuss my opinion of “The Laramie Project.” I will explain how this play addresses issues that affect everyone, universally.

            Starting off, I would like to relay a joke I heard from the comedian Ron White. It went something like this:

            I was on the phone with a friend, a major homophobic. The subject of gay men was brought up and Ron asked him, “Do like porno movies?” The guy said hell yeah. Then he asked, “Do you only watch women on women movies?” His friend said, “No, I like to watch a man and a woman make love.” Finally he asked, “So the guy can be small?” His friend replied, “No I want him to have a big, thick…” his friend stopped and thought about what he was saying.

            The main question at hand is, “How is the social construction of sexual identity linked to social construction of race?” Sociologists see race as being socially constructed. Race, as it corresponds to the scientific measures of our society is fixed in a sense, to signify the human species as a whole. Consequently, if you think about it, there is only one race, in my opinion, which is…Human. But, in defining race some individuals attach the biological meaning whereas, others view it as a socially constructed perception.

            In the play, Mathew is described by Doc O’Connor and Jon Peacock as being a little guy and mousey, “It’s a little guy, about five-two, soakin’ wet, I betcha ninety-seven pounds tops…To the point of being somewhat mousy I’d almost say.” (p.18, 20).  Symbolic interactions had been strategically placed, without the intention of the town’s people. Tyson stated, “…characteristics that heterosexist culture stereotypically associates with gay men or lesbians, such as might be evident, for example, in the appearance and behavior of “feminine” male characters or “masculine” female characters.” (p. 340).Shannonremarked, “Shit, he had better clothes than I did. Mathew was a little rich bitch” (p.60).  This character had internalized racism (he being a gay man and her being a straight woman) and classified him as a “bad girl.” Being associated with a woman, and not accepting his patriarchal gender role in turn, he had become the “monster.” (Tyson, 2006, p.89). What a sad commentary that he had been categorized as the “other” just as women are seen in today’s society. Regardless of societies views and oppression, Matthew became involved in the gay rights movement and this was to be his in group as Romaine Patterson commented, “And he told me that he had joined the gay and lesbian group on campus, and he said he was enjoying it, you know, he was getting ready for Pride Week and whatnot.” (p.20).

            The social construction of sexual identity is represented primarily by symbolic interactionists, a process of describing one’s social location within a changingsocial context. Matthew, a man (anonymous) who had been alone in a bar having a beer as described by Phil Labrie, “The fact that he was at the bar alone without any friends made him that much more vulnerable.” (p.31). As time went on, the social location within the different cultural contexts had changed. When he walked out of the bar, his sexual identity and self image was apparent, a homosexual male.  He was not born homosexual or heterosexual rather, he learned through channeled experiences these sexual orientations and this is where he acquired his sexual identity.

             Smedley & Smedley (2005) stated, “History is significant because it demonstrates that race is a fairly recent construct, one that emerged well after population groups from different continents came into contact with one another.” This social construction of race is defined as physical features such as eyes (green, blue, brown), skin color (black light/dark, white, yellow) and hair (brown, red, blonde) have been proven to be associated with the components of the location of environment. These traits were not only used to identify one race from another, but also as a determining factor to establish racial superiority. As time went on, the meaning of race began to change. As “races” began melding together they created new and unique individuals. Matthew demonstrates this theory, as he successfully integrated himself into the dominant heterosexual patriarchal society, even though his appearance let him “pass” his racial construction by law determined that he was white.

            Sexual identity and race overlap one another through limitations and restrictions. Individuals choose to construct their sexual identity. Foucault wrote the relationship as, “…as a series of crisscrossing boundaries dividing populations into multiple groups differentiated by religion, color, language, culture, and if we note that these boundaries are changeable and permeable (with some boundaries weakening and other boundaries strengthening and with people crossing over from one group to another), then we can begin to move away from primordialist, essentialist understandings of ethnicity and race as biological.” (p.112).

            In conclusion, Tyson stated, “Race intersects with class, sex, sexual orientation, political orientation, and personal history in forming each person’s complex identity.” (p.376). Matthew Shepard sacrificed his life and in doing so strengthened the link between the social construction of sexual identity and the social construction of race…the human race.

            Therefore, transformation will always be in the air, as Rust wrote (1993), “…the construction of these categorizes creates the possibility of change.”

            Some of the town’s people will never begin the process of releasing the programmed stigmatism of homosexuality yet; others have been enlightened by the brutal death of Matthew and have learned from it. These are the ones that will hold close to their hearts, the cliché of “Live and Let Live.”

Weather trend 10/07/1998

18 hours before he was found. They left the bar at 11:30 pm. You do the math.

Time (MDT): Temp.:
12:50 AM 37.9 °F
 1:56 AM 30.4 °F
2:54 AM 30.4 °F
3:55 AM 30.0 °F
4:55 AM 30.9 °F
5:54 AM 30.4 °F
6:50 AM 30.0 °F
7:53 AM 33.1 °F
8:52 AM 38.5 °F
9:50 AM 45.9 °F

Home on the Range: Laramie Wyoming Stats:


1. Geography:Wyoming is about 360 miles long and 280 miles wide. On the north it bordersMontana andUtah while to the south isColorado. On the east, it is bordered bySouth Dakota andNebraska and to the west isIdaho andUtah. Several relatively flat areas betweenWyoming mountain ranges are part of the Intermontane Basins. These areas are characterized by short grasses and lower brush. They are mostly treeless and don’t receive the amounts of rainfall that are found in the mountains. Major basins are the Bighorn andPowderRiver Basins in the north, theWindRiver Basin in centralWyoming and the Green River, Great Divide, andWashakieBasins in the south. Ranges of theRocky Mountains cross the state in a mainly northwest southeast direction. In the southeast are the 10,000 to 12,000 footLaramie and Medicine Bow mountains, which enclose the Shirley andLaramie basins. Nearby is the Sierra Madre range. Ranges in centralWyoming are relatively low; those in the northwest rise to great heights. The Wind River Range contains the state’s highest mountain,Gannett Peak, which is 13,804 feet. The Bighorn Mountains, in the north, and theAbsarokaMountains, in the northwest, rise to more than 13,000 feet and edge theBighornBasin. Most of southwesternWyoming is part of the broadWyomingBasin, which includes a number of smaller basins.

2. Climate: TheGreat Plains and the large western basins have a dry and sunny climate. The mountains, in contrast, have a more humid, colder climate, which becomes more severe with increasing elevation. Summers are fairly warm on the plains and in the basins. July temperatures often reach 80° to 90° F. during the day, but drop sharply at night; they average about 60° to 75° F. throughout most of the state. Freezing temperatures can occur in the mountains throughout the summer months.

Winters are long and cold with occasional blizzards as well as brief periods of mild weather brought by chinook winds. October’s minimum temperature is 29° and the mean is 44°. January temperatures often dip considerably below 0° F., but average 10° to 25° F., depending on location. The coldest weather is in the mountain basins. Most of theGreat Plainsreceives 12 to 16 inches ofprecipitation each year; the western basins, 5 to 10 inches. However, the total amount, both locally and for the state as a whole, is highly variable from year to year. Snowfall is heavy only in the mountains, where it reaches 200 inches a year or more.


3. History: Laramie nicknamed, “Gem City of the Plains” is the third oldest town in Wyoming which is nicknamed, “The Equality State.” Its county seat, Cheyenne is also its capital. The city was named after the trapper, Jacques la Ramie, who built a cabin at the junction of Laramie and Platte Rivers. In 1866 the route for a transcontinental railroad was selected and as it approached the Laramie area, railroad employees and tradesmen began arriving. Knoblich (2001) recited, “In 1868, Wyoming territorial organizers had every reason to expect the rapid growth of urban settlements and economic activities. They believed they were on the cutting edge of the expansion of industrial development, not waiting in a rural backwater for industry to come their way; industry in the form of Union Pacific railroad construction and maintenance, precipitated political organization.” Union Pacific Railroad’s chief surveyor, General Grenville Dodge selected the Laramie town site and its name, Laramie City. The railroad began selling lots in April of that year. On May 9th, the line throughLaramie was completed with the first train arriving the next day. Buildings such as churches, houses, stores and a school were constructed in the city soon after the first train arrived. It was unfortunate that the industrial progression did not come as expected resulting through the train, but as Knoblich (2001) described it, “…hunters and fishers, hikers and campers certainly did.” (p.209)Laramie’s early days typified a Wild West town, complete with rough and rowdy characters. Vigilante justice mitigated and in order t resolve this issue in 1872 the Wyoming Territorial Prison was built nearLaramie. In later years, this prison housed many famous outlaws, including Butch Cassidy. A second accomplishment for this city was having a dream come true, for the Women’s Suffrage Movement. In 1869, According to the website The Aurty, “…the twenty-member Territorial Legislature approved a revolutionary measure stating: That every woman of the age of twenty-one years, residing in this Territory, may at every election to be holden under the law thereof, cast her vote. William Bright, the bill’s sponsor, had come to share his wife, Julia’s, belief that suffrage was a basic right of American citizenship.” There was no organized suffrage campaign, and not a single parade, debate or public display. But women kept vigil outside Governor John A. Campbell’s office until he signed the bill into law. Eliza A. “Grandma” Swain of Laramie claimed the honor of castingWyoming’s first female ballot on September 6, 1870. She was first woman to vote legally in theUnited States. After this monumental moment in history, women gained fame as the nation’s first female justices of the peace. The next year Wyoming’s women sat on juries. It is clear that Wyoming women embraced their right to vote and loyally defended it against all threats. The City was incorporated on Dec 12, 1873 seventeen years beforeWyomingbecame a state. In 1924 they are also acclaimed for having the first woman as governor. Today,Laramieis still a small town which sits on the high plains prairie of the Medicine Bow Mountain Range. Its history is close to home in the Wyoming Children’s Museum andNatureCenter, University of Wyoming Geological Museum,AmericanHeritageCenter, University of Wyoming Art Museum, University of Wyoming Anthropology Museum and theLaramie Plains Museum.

           Laramiewill always have a place of infamy as it will be sadly and notoriously known as the town where there had been a brutal torture and slaying of a young gay man who was barely 22 years old. It was considered a hate crime in 1998.


4. Demography: The Economic Expert website (2010) posted these statistics: The racial makeup of the city is 90.81% White, 1.24% African American, 0.89% Native American, 1.92% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 2.89% from other races, and 2.19% from two or more races. 7.94% of the population is Hispanic or Latino of any race. TheCounty ofLaramie, a middle class town inWyoming, as of 2009, has a population of 86,353 people. In the city ofLaramie, the population is spread out with 17.5% under the age of 18, 31.8% from 18 to 24, 25.8% from 25 to 44, 16.8% from 45 to 64, and 8.1% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 25 years. For every 100 females there are 107.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 106.7 males.  The median income for a household in the city is $27,319, and the median income for a family is $43,395. Males have a median income of $30,888 versus $22,009 for females. The per capita income for the city is $16,036. 22.6% of the population and 11.1% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 15.7% of those under the age of 18 and 8.3% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.

 5. Culture: Laramie is a rural culture.  Knoblich (2001) stated, “Wyoming resident’s original dreams of a diversified economy, including both rural and urban development, were rapidly and consistently accompanied by cultural images of the state as “Western.” For insiders and outsiders alike, these images identified Wyoming the beautiful natural scenery and the world of the range cowboy – in short, as an underdeveloped, even undevelopable place. The cultural forces shaped Wyoming’s state identity.” (p. 201). The cowboy culture is more of a mind set. This individual was kind, tough, and hard working, he stood for morals. The Thomas Ranch Website (2003) was informative in bringing to light the definition, “The morals of the Cowboy are steadfast. He takes on and accomplishes any job given to him, no matter how hard or dangerous this job maybe. He rides and competes for pride, not for the actual belt buckle or title. A Cowboy stands for all that is pure and true. He knows that a job must be done. He can stay all night on a trail of cattle being pushed around the state or country, he could at the same time go twenty miles out of his way to take a sick dog to a vet for a child. They were never looking for trouble, but when it came, they faced it with courage and dignity. The Cowboy is always on the right side (if there is a right side). They defend good people, who cannot defend themselves, against bad people. They have always had high morals. They had good manners and were honest.” A second prevalent culture is the university cultural aspect which has a population of half the size of the city population. The bars inLaramieare frequented byWyomingstudents, andLaramie’s residents visit the campus to attend cultural and athletic events.

 6. Language: There are two main languages that stem from two different types of people, maybe even classes. Individual’s who attend college will perceive the world in more diverse aspect and therefore, have a dissimilar dialect then say a farmer, cowboy, rancher or a non-student. The terminology is different and even body language can be misunderstood.

7. Religious Beliefs: The town is divided. Laramie Church Of Christ/ Saint Laurence O’Toole Catholic Church/WestboroBaptistChurch /Saint Paul’s United Church Of Christ andTrinityEvangelicalLutheranChurch, all have their individual belief systems which seemed to be respected, but what divided the people was the concept of the equality of one man. The Westboro Baptist Church ignited the division and I think the website says it all, “”. From this website I quote, “Since 1955, WestboroBaptistChurchhas taken forth the precious from the vile, and so is as the mouth of God (Jer. 15:19). In 1991, WBC took her ministry to the streets, conducting 41,226 peaceful demonstrations (to date) opposing the fag lifestyle of soul-damning, nation-destroying filth.” The moral beliefs and values of individuals of this town have been questioned and torn apart. As an NBC reporter put it while standing outside aLaramiedrinking joint, “At Wild Willies Cowboy Bar today, patrons said hate is easy to find here.” 

8. Education:TheUniversity ofWyoming, located on the windswept plains ofLaramie is the state’s only four year educational institution. Its estimated 13,000 students have a choice of seven schools: Agriculture, Arts and Sciences, Business, Education, Engineering, Health Sciences, and Law. The most popular schools are Business and Education, butWyoming also has very strong Geology and Biology programs.Wyoming has a reputation as a big party school, and many of its students are involved in Greek life. Most of the student body comes fromWyomingor from nearbyColorado, and it is a predominantly white, conservative school. About a third of the students live on campus, which makes the school residence halls the most densely populated area in the state. Students frequently complain of the altitude, 7,000 ft. above sea level and the relentless wind. A student should be prepared to face long winters, strong winds, and social restrictions. Some have been known to experience loneliness.           

            Other educational facilities that are available to individuals are Wyoming Technical Institute which is a vocational school offering careers in automotive, diesel, or collision/refinishing andLaramieCountyCommunity Collegewhich enrolls more than 1500 students in credit courses each year and an additional 250 students for non credit programs.


9. Transportation: The City ofLaramie sits clearly at the crossroads of two major interstates and railroads which acts as a transportation corridor for the east/west connections of Interstate 80. The location provides connections for trucks, interstate traffic, and traditional rail freight cars passing through theRocky Mountain region. Union Pacific Railroad mainline operates over 55 freight trains on a daily basis throughLaramie. Interstate 80’s highest point, 8,640 feet, is at the summit of theLaramieRangein thePoleMountainarea. The City ofLaramieis also served by theLaramieRegionalAirport. Flights are offered on a daily basis. The airport offers service for commercial air flights as well as private planes. Greyhound has a bus depot located in the city. 

10. Economy: Agriculture is an essential and fundamental aspect ofLaramie’s economy. It is relative to the natural resource sectors consisting of raising of cattle/calves, hay, hogs, sheep, lamb, wheat and barley. The main exports are feeders, fodders, feed grains, wheat, seeds and animals (dead or alive).

           11. Major Industry:Wyoming is known for its coal and oil industry which has been a part of theWyoming economy since the beginning days of statehood. Although the fields inWyoming, for the most part, are aging, oil production and coal mining remain important to the state in 2009. One of the current issues is that a neighboring city of Laramie, Cheyenne, will effect Laramie’s economy in the future by incorporating a company that will capture over half of the carbon dioxide emitted during the coal refining process. Nearly (2009) wrote, “It plans to pipe the CO2 gas toWyoming oil fields where pumping it underground would serve the dual purpose of keeping it out of the atmosphere while pressurizing the oil reserves to allow more of it to be pumped out. The U.S. Department of Energy is weighing an application from DKRW Advanced Fuels LLC of Houston for a loan to help build the proposed $2.7 billion coal-to-gasoline plant. This would be the first major industrial gasification facility that produces transport fuels — gasoline or diesel — from coal in theUnited States, DKRW chairman Bob Kelly ofHoustonsaid Friday. The plant would process nearly 10,000 tons of low-sulfur coal a day from a mine into 21,000 barrels a day of gasoline. The fuel then would be piped roughly 200 miles southeast to theDenvermarket.”


12. Rural Income: Unprecedented economic growth during the 1990s benefited rural areas. Rural income grew from $16,506 in 1993 to $21,831 in 2000, and the percentage of rural people in poverty fell from 17.1 to 13.4 percent over that period. Welfare policy and the growing economy contributed to declines in food stamps, assistance to needy families, and unemployment. But, the 2001 recession caused rural income growth to slow and poverty and assistance payments to slowly rise.

Today’s ratings range from (lowest) to (highest).Characteristic Compared to Peers (small towns nationwide) Compared to State
Median Family Income
People in Middle Class or Better
People Above Poverty

13. Employment/Unemployment: The Census Bureau reported, “Through the third quarter of 2009, the greaterCheyenne economy has preformed much as expected since the start of the Great Recession (December, 2007). Anticipated declines in local employment and increased rates of unemployment lagged these same national indicators by a little more than 12 months. By the close of the third quarter,Laramie’s unemployment rate had risen to 6.1 percent, up 33 percent from December 2007’s rate of 4.6 percent. The just released unemployment rate for October 2009 was 7.2 percent.” The blue collar occupations in Laramieinclude farming, forestry and fishing; handlers, equipment cleaners, helpers and laborers; machine operators, assemblers and inspectors; precision production, craft and repair; private household services; protective services, transportation and material moving.

 14. Hazards:  One of Wyoming’s natural hazards is earthquakes and there is suspected active faults with surficial expressions under the ground. In 1882, a magnitude of 6.2 to 6.5 intensity occurred between Laramie and Estes Park, Colorado. These occurrences are common in Wyoming. Historically, they have happened in every county over the past 120 years. One earthquake in Colorado caused minor damage in southern Wyoming. Plaster fell and windows broke as far north asLaramie. An aftershock was reported to be almost as strong as the main shock inLaramie and Denver.

            LaramieWyomingat first glance is just a small town in the mid west. But, closer examination reveals underlying mental, physical and environmental limitations.


            After reading the book, I discovered many reasons for this, including financial constraints, the need to recover from failure, and loss, and fatigue and frustration of pursuit itself. As Laramie expanded and Wyoming became a state, the size and status of the population changed as well. I was saddened by the strong split of moral, ethical and religious belief systems held by these people. On the one side, support for the LGBT community as opposed to the traits of the “haters.”

             At last count, I explored 65 web sites as well as reading, “The Laramie Project” play. I have learned that discrimination of individuals have existed from the beginning of time and will arise when least expected in the largest of cities as well as the smallest of American towns. The cliché holds true, “We are everywhere.” Oppressors come in all shapes, sizes and colors and these individuals showed themselves and were heard loudly as their voices screamed sounds of hatred.


 Adult Beliefs, Behaviors, and Perceptions about Alcohol Use. Retrieved   February 2, 2010 from 

Blanchard, R.O. (1999). The “HateState” Myth. Retrieved February 1, 2010, from 

City ofLaramie. (2008). Financial Report. Retrieved January 28, 2010, from   

Economic indicators for greater Cheyenne. Annual trends addition.Wyoming Center for Business and Economic Analysis, 25 (1). Retrieved January 28, 2010, from 

Gibbs. R. (2006). Rural income, poverty and welfare. Retrieved January 30, 2010 from 

Knoblich, F. (2001). Creating the Cowboy state: Culture and underdevelopment in Wyoming since 1867. The Western Historical Quarterly, 32, (2), 201-221. Retrieved January 31, 2010, from            &term=underdevelopment&term=Cowboy&list=hide&searchUri=%2Faction%2FdoBasicSearch%3FQuery%3DCreating%2Bthe%2Bcowboy%2Bstate%253A%2BCulture%2Band%2Bunderdevelopment%2Bin%2BWyoming%2Bsince%2B1867%26wc%3Don%26x%3D9%26y      %3D12&item=1&ttl=12&returnArticleService=showArticle 

Laramie,Wyoming. (2010). Retrieved January 25, 2010, from 

Neary. B (2009). Plans progress for Wyoming coal-to-gasoline plant. Retrieved February 1, 2010 from

Robert. P. New History ofWyoming. Chapter 9 History of oil in  Wyoming. Retrieved February 1, 2010 from 

What is a cowboy? (2003). Retrieved from

Wyoming. (2009). Retrieved January 15, 2010, from 

Wyoming the “Equality State.” Retrieved January 30, 2010, from

No one is perfect dancing in the wind~The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time And Asperger’s Syndrome, Autism   Leave a comment



It is my contention to share my knowledge of the novel “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” and the historical/cultural content in which it revealed regarding Asperger’s Syndrome, Autism and it’s major characters.

Themes throughout the novel: the value of truth/truth and perspective, human needs and relationships, the need for control/ stability/power, the nature of difference, communication, acceptance and the rites of passage…

Statistics: Autism is one of the most common developmental disabilities. Individuals are of all races and ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. Current estimates suggest that approximately 400,000 individuals in theUnited Stateshave autism. Autism is three to four times more likely to affect boys than girls. Autism occurs in individuals of all levels of intelligence. Approximately 75 percent are of low intelligence while 10 percent may demonstrate high intelligence in specific areas such as math.

      Autism is a psychological syndrome distinguished by an emotional shutdown of an individual. It is a fact that severely autistic people will shy away from human contact and social pleasure, often engrossing themselves instead in routines, repetitive tasks or private interests. We know that they are not mentally retarded, and can be extremely intelligent, talented and yes, different. As the cliché goes, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”

      In the autumn of 1998 the multifaceted emotions of his parents and the pain that they endured will always linger as a hidden secret. I speak of the protagonist, Christopher Francis and his parents Ed and Judy Boone from the book; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. I would first like to declare that autism is as blind as a bat. It makes no difference if one is black, white, yellow or brown, rich or poor. There are no discriminatory factors within the disease. We all know someone who has been diagnosed with this heartbreaking syndrome, autism. But what does it look like?  Have you seen the movie “Rain man” with Dustin Hoffman? Look around. Look at who is sitting next to you, or your friends, children or family. All of them could very well be the minority group of the faces of autism. Whether it is a daughter, son, brother or sister. That is why we are here. Have you ever experienced what those parents did in the novel? The tears, frustrations, anger and love as Ed and Judy Boone struggled with their own inner torments and joys which were only glimpses in the book? I’ll bet your answer would be yes. Could you relate to the evidence laid before you when someone you knew had almost a complete lack of understanding and mimetic ability making life very difficult for parents? Yes, again.

            The characters within this text are shaped by living in a working class urban environment. The house in which Chistopher and his father lived in had a garden. Christopher described his hometown inSwindonas being small. Individuals within this town were capable of holding the power of their social status through their work, living in a society based on equality. As with Christopher’s parents, it was their independence and freedom of progression that became apparent when the reader discovered his father was a heating engineer who owned and operated a maintenance and boiler repair company and his mother was in search of herself and a career.

            Whereas, the family values were depicted in a more negative light, “I used to think that Mother and Father might get divorced. That was because they hated each other. This was because of the stress of looking after someone who has Behavioral Problems like I have.” (Haddon, 2003, p.45). The structure of the family unit appeared fragile and weak resulting in not one but two marriage dissolutions.

            His mother followed her dream to be independent and had to walk away from her family for her own sanity. She felt she was living in a falling tower and destruction was on her heels. She could not accept the trials and tribulations of being a mother of an autistic child and the loss of love within her husband. Motherhood was not a priority as she recognized her maternal instincts were insufficient knowing that she did not have the patience to cope with her son’s behavioral issues.

            It was not only the mother who was barely coping, but also the long suffering father. Being a single parent for two years was extremely difficult for him. As hard as he tried he appeared to be insensitive to his sons needs. One can sense the torments and the power struggles of forbearance leading to his being short tempered, even inept when it came to his family yet, this character truly revealed his love and devotion towards his son. There was a dependence that was shared between the two of them. As a person with autism, his father took care of him in every meaning of the word and a small example of the reverse was when the reader was told his father never had to write down his bankcard pin number down, “…Father hadn’t written it down in a safe place, which is what you’re meant to do, but he had told me because he said I’d never forget it. And it was 3558.” (Haddon, 2003, p.135). Foucault made an interesting point, “…whose ideas have strongly influenced the development of new historian, power circulates in all directions, to and from all social levels, at all times.” (Tyson, 2006, p.284). Unfortunately, the end result was that Christopher became more of a loner than a family member. He was in need of a traditional family lifestyle and to feel protected in a secure place in which he could call his own in order for happiness to occur.

            Here is the bottom line. You must know that your unconditional love can and does make a difference. We love these individuals and accept their innate disabilities and culture. Because what is culture but the essence of a society, of shared patterns, behaviors and interactions. Thompson (1997) commented, “that disability is another culture-bound, physically justified difference to consider along with race, gender, class, ethnicity and sexuality’.” (p.248). I believe if one thinks about it, are we not all born into a society and culture? Diversity is a part of life.

            Within all cultures exists some type of language even in groups of individuals with life long developmental disabilities. It could be through gestures, drawings, physical actions and non verbal cues. Christopher utilized his communication skills through the world of art. As a child with autism drawing was means of relaying his message the only way he knew how. The wooden puzzle piece on page thirteen, the map of the street in which he lived on page thirty five, the constellation Orion on page one hundred twenty five, the Double Decker bus on page 211 and a more intricate wooden puzzle on page 217. These were clearly images that Christopher did not have the words to adequately express. This was one of many things he did because he had Asperger’s Syndrome. Tyson explained this as thick description. “Thick description, through close, detailed examination of a given cultural production – such as birthing practices, ritual ceromonies, games, penal codes, works of art, copyright laws, and the like – to discover the meaning that particular production had for the people in whose community it occured and to reveal  the social conventions, cultural codes, and ways of seeing the world that gave that production those meanings.” (p.288). The main character was uncontaminated by societal logic and was limited by his own language. He appeared to be lacking in people skills, had difficulty in understanding tones of voices and difficulty with any type of gestures or body language. The National Autistic Society was quoted, “For people with autistic spectrum disorders, ‘body language’ can appear just as foreign as if people were speaking ancient Greek.” He is not the only one, for all children born with this disease share common characteristics, as a set pattern. There is what is called a triad of impairments and in layman’s terms means three social disorders are trapped within them. They have trouble with many aspects we all take for granted such as utilizing social/creative imagination, social interfacing and dealing with aspects of social communication. Let it be known that there are also differences within the population of individuals who have this disorder. No two are exactly alike.

            How frustrating it must be not only for a child, but a parent when verbal communication is complicated or becomes unattainable. It has been said that most people inflicted with this disorder have difficulty effectively utilizing language. A daily occurrence, a constant struggle of understanding what a child wants or needs. Are they happy, sad, or maybe hungry? This was due to the fact that the child may experience emotions and feelings but, does not know and/or can’t express the meanings. Webster-Heard discussed her seven year old son’s ways of non-verbal communication, “My seven-year old, who is on the low end of the spectrum is nonverbal and is only able to show me what he wants by taking me to it or bringing a picture to me. The fact that he can’t communicate is the reason for most of his severe temper tantrums.”

         With Christopher, his perception was only through conventional signs. Through piecing the puzzles together he was able to distinguish when his father shouted that he was angry or when there were tears it meant sadness. Consequently, all language subtleties whether they were ironies or metaphors were vague to him. He was disabled in his capability to efficiently interpret certain fundamentals he encountered, powerless to comprehend emotions in a normal fashion and found countless every day events to be intimidating and ordinary actions challenging. The coping mechanism he used was to surround him self with rules, rituals and math, “4 red cars in a row made it a good day, and 3 red cars in a row made it a quite good day, and 5 red cars in a row made it a super day and why 4 yellow cars made it a black day.” (Haddon, 2003, p.24).

            It is unfortunate that the social order in place today has negative undertones of this brain disorder. As a young child, Christopher distinguished his thought process as a slicing machine in a bakery. This portrayed how his mind performed by certain regiments, at his own pace. His mind was configured as a machine or computer that transformed information. As with a computer, considering their intrinsic existence, the language of logic, and their ultimate determinate nature, it would seem that the machine of order and stability was the representation of the protagonist. At fifteen years old he was extremely intelligent, excelling in college level math and had held great deal of knowledge in technical and scientific facts.

            An individual’s disability could be examined from many different lenses, whether it be the social construction, a medical standpoint, psychological or through a glimpse into the group dynamics as a minority. If one thinks about it, we all have our little quirks whether it is the type of food we eat, how we eat it and why. Or maybe it’s the colors in one’s wardrobe (is there a predominant theme?), or maybe…the list is endless. It is true that our “normal” world was significantly different from a person with development disabilities as in the main character. It can’t be easy for someone with a disability in our world which is consumed with competition, rivalry, restraint, and independence.

            Point one: Who killed Wellington was an underlying theme in the novel? I would say the initiator of chaotic excess seemed to be the murderer ofWellington. Christopher loved animals, Toby his rat and dog’s because the canine portrayed characteristics he could relate to, “I also said that I cared for dogs because they were faithful and honest, and some dogs were cleverer and more interesting than some people.” (Haddon, 2003, p.6). This love of animals progressed into his search for order and stability. This was Christopher’s mind, literal, categorized and classified. Anything out of the “norm” jeopardized his happiness and feelings of safety. He observed the poodle’s death as representation of turmoil and disarray and therefore needed to be corrected in his mind due his high functioning Asperger’s Syndrome. The realization that he could not be in control all the time and not everything had logical explanations was disturbing to him. The only way he knew how to communicate and respond was through anger or logic. He concluded that the passing over of this creature was an event to him in which he experienced and therefore chose a logical way of dealing with it, and so began the search for the truth. This was the beginning of his rite to passage. His handicap had become his strength.

            Point two: Communication in general comes in a variety of forms. Ed Boone’s character was shown as someone who utilized cursing and foul language. For example, when discussing Judy’s letter’s, “Wrote to him? What the fuck use is writing to him? (Haddon, 2003, p.196).  It was also through his language that he emphasized just how difficult Christopher tended to make situations for him and unfortunately not taking into consideration the type of communication his child could absorb. At one point stating, “Then he said, “Holy fucking Jesus, Christopher. How stupid are you?” (Haddon, 2003.p.81). Although, the father seemed usually very patient and understanding with Christopher, signs were shown of his gradual uneasiness. He had chosen not to relay the circumstances behind the cruel murder ofWellington to his son. Christopher’s comments held true, “Most murders are committed by someone who is known to the victim? (Haddon, 2003, p.42). Art imitating life? As a man who had been disgraced by his ex-wife’s infidelity and flight from her responsibilities, he was in his own emotional turmoil. He had killed the animal in a state of rage knowing it was wrong from a societal point of view. He observed the death of the animal as a symbol of releasing his hatred of the situation, the anger he held inside, the circumstances in with he had no control or power over. Was he brought up in his cultural setting knowing right from wrong? Probably so, Yes. Were his morals askew? Yes. Was he penalized for his actions? No. He concluded that the intentional death had resulted in newer struggles with Christopher. A bridge, a larger gap between himself and his son, emotionally, physically and stemming from a lack of trust. Their communication had reached a different level in hopes of creating a stronger relationship.

            Point three: Judy Boone’s concern and emotional feedback for Wellington seemed small and trivial. Her life had been revolving around making a home for herself and her new mate. Trying to pick up the pieces and begin a new. Although, she ran from her own fears and insecurities into her neighbor’s arms, a man who at one time owned Wellington. She had no other connection with her past which consisted of befriending her neighbors and their dog. She had observed the animal’s death as a representation of a past that was already put to rest, her personal historical closure in a sense. There were no real signs of sympathy, as she concluded that the tears of her past had already been shed.

            Point 4: Eileen Shear’s character was a neighbor of Christopher’s and the ex-wife of Roger Shears. She too had gone through many struggles as one divorce themselves from a cheating spouse. She cursed and utilized foul language, “Let go of the dog”, she shouted. Let go of the fucking dog for Christ’s sake.” (Haddon, 2003, p.4). She was not a religious woman as she used words that some would say were spoken in vain.  She became a female influence in Ed’s and Christopher’s home. “This is why Mrs. Shears came over and did lots of cooking for us after Mother died, because she didn’t have to cook for Mr. Shears anymore and she didn’t have to stay at home and be his wife.” (Haddon, 2003, p.42). A relationship progressed, blossomed and ended with her and Ed. She observed the death of her dog with anger but no tears. Is the reader to assume that she found out who killedWellington which led to the ending of their friendship? She concluded the death was a malicious action based on her past experience with Ed.

            Point 5: Siobhan is Christopher’s teacher, mentor and friend with attributes of, “…long blonde hair and wears glasses which are made of green plastic.” (Haddon, 2003, p.5). She knows how to communicate clearly with Christopher. She enlightened him on the inner workings of society and proper behavioral actions and reactions within its complicated rules. She observed the death ofWellington to be a learning experience for her student. She guided him in showing him an outlet of his feelings, through a new art form with the hopes of educating him. Therefore, she concluded that even though it was a sad occasion and a loss, the death brought about a positive ending and the personal growth of Christopher.

            In conclusion as these points suggest, “what is “right”, “natural,” and “normal” are matters of definition. (Tyson, 2006, p. 285).


Haddon, M. (2003). The curious incident of the dog in the night-time.New York: Vintage Books.

National Autistic Society. (2010). Retrieved January 1, 2010, from

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Autism Fact Sheet. (2009).

Thompson. R.G. (1997). Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Culture and Literature.New York:ColumbiaUniversity Press.

Tyson, L. (2006). Critical theory today; A user –friendly guide.New York: Routledge.

Webster-Heard, S. (2010). What Does Autism Look Like? Retrieved January 1, 2010, from

The Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat~ My Literary Interpretation   Leave a comment



The cell is about 20 x 20 feet and holds 67 people. That’s about a 2 x 3 foot rectangle for each person, for 23 hours a day. To eat, to sleep, everything. What it can’t capture is the heat and the smell.  It is easily over 100 degrees.

Bay kou bliye, pote mak sonje                                     
He who strikes the blow, forgets; he who bears the bruises, remembers…      


Feminist Perspective of “The Dew Breaker” (those who break the serenity of the grass in the morning dew: It is a Creole nickname for torturer) by Edwidge Danticat.

The purpose of this paper is to offer my literary interpretation of The Dew Breaker. It is through three of the scenes that I have chosen to address the female/male and patriarchal stereotypes. 

The Voices web site gave a synopsis of the author Edwidge Danticat who had been writing ever since she was a small girl of nine. While her parents thought that writing would never be more than a hobby for her and urged her to pursue another career, Danticat proved them wrong. She has received the 1995 Pushcart Short Story Prize and fiction awards from The Caribbean Writer, Seventeen, and Essence magazines, she is now widely considered to be one of the most talented young authors in theUnited States. Danticat was born inPort-au-Prince,Haiti, in 1969. When she was two years old, her father André immigrated to New York to be followed two years later by her mother Rose. This left Danticat and her younger brother Eliab to be raised by her aunt and uncle. It was during these early years that Danticat was influenced by the Haitian practice of story telling which developed because much of the population was not literate at the time. Danticat says, “That the memories ofHaitiare still extremely vivid in her mind, and that her love ofHaitiand things Haitian deeply influences her writing.” Danticat, staying much more within the realm of her own experience, dealt only with the torturers from Papa Doc’s time on. She draws on some famous cases which have appeared both in newspaper accounts and famous books onHaiti. State sponsored torture and brutality are a part of Haiti’s 200 year history. During the twenty nine year period (1957-1986) thatHaitiwas ruled by the father and son dictators, François “Papa Doc” and Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, referred to as rural chief, a brutal regional leader and torturer who killed dissidents under the regime.

   “Papa Doc” President Duvalier’s dictatorship exploited the labor force of people and took control with the deception of handing power to the black majority, but in reality it was for himself, for his personal executioners called the Tontons Macoutes, and for the elite, who continued to prosper under his murderous governmental corruption. The country was considered a large prison where power, control, torture and murders were part of the everyday life. InHaitithere was a division between the people: those who supported the presidency and those who were opposed. Children grieved and lost their fathers who either fled the country or died disagreeing with the President.

Within the Caribbean diaspora views regarding its survivors and refugees are ambiguous regarding nationality, class, race,gender, sexuality, and political economy which lead to the concept that there isnot one diaspora but many. Diasporas are spread through out Haiti, not only in the oppression of men and women but also corruptpresidents leading to the transnational individuals who fled to find safety. This book is a representation of the unchanged history of gender oppression.

The Dew Breaker throughout the book was portrayed as a father/husband/barber/landlord/former torturer and has touched each character directly and/or indirectly in the country of his birth. His victims, his victims relatives, his daughter, and his wife each describe a different aspect of a man whose life was full of turmoil and contradictions. As I read it I tried to see the side of the oppressor, the protagonist. I imagined him being a torturer out of obligation, perhaps because he really did believe that an individual who opposed to the government was a threat to the country. I thought that he must have been so deeply enveloped in his ideology that he believed he was doing the right thing, a good thing. Or was it possible that he had no choice but to continue serving the government because it would have been difficult for him to flee, especially if he was involved in the fight from the beginning. He knew the consequences too well if he betrayed the regime. Vince (2004) declared, “The researchers identified situations where individuals feel provoked, stressed or taunted – such as during war – as conducive to causing aggressive acts. And they say that the need to conform to their peer group and obey those in authority – or act in a way that they believe their superiors would approve of – could lead individuals to behave in a way that they would usually consider unacceptable.” So when I read the last story, my opinion drastically changed. I saw that he didn’t really feel guilty when he “did his job” of getting rid of subversives, even though I tried to distinguish some signs of repent, anywhere in the book. But, he enjoyed the torturing of people too much as Danticat (2004) pointed out, “It was becoming like any other job. He liked questioning the prisoners, teaching them to play zo and bezik, stapling clothespins to their ears as they lost and removing them as he let them win, convincing them that their false victories would save their lives. He liked to paddle them with braided cowhide, stand on their cracking backs and jump up and down like a drunk on a trampoline, pound a rock on the protruding bone behind the earlobes until they couldn’t hear the orders he was shouting at them, tie blocks of concrete to the end of sisal ropes and balance them off their testicles if they were men or their breast if they were women.” (p.198).

By looking through the lenses of feministic criticism, the struggle for women’s rights, it became apparent there were patterns of hierarchical and patriarchal domination, control, power and tyrannical authority that bound these women to a sisterhood of oppression through poverty, illiteracy, violence, sexual abuse and death. Tyson (2006) reported, “Therefore, the promotion of sisterhood – psychological and political bonding among women based on the recognition of common experiences and goals – must include respect for and attention to individual differences among women as well as an equitable distribution of power among various cultural groups within the feminist leadership” (p. 106).

  Women were tortured and killed as the political servants took control using their power over what was considered the less significant class and gender. Tyson (2006) wrote, “That is, patriarchy treats women, whatever their role, like objects, women exist, according to patriarchy, to be used without consideration of their own perspectives, feelings, or opinions. After all, from a patriarchal standpoint, women’s perspectives, feelings, and opinions don’t count unless they conform to those of patriarchy.” (p.91).One woman fled to the United Sates because she was tied up in a prison and had the bottoms of her feet whipped until they bled, all for declining a date with one of the Tontons Macoutes, Danticat (2004) wrote, “He asked me to go dancing with him one night, Beatrice said, putting her feet back in her sandals. I had a boyfriend, so I said no. That’s why he arrested me. He tied me to some type of rack in the prison and whipped the bottom of my feet until they bled. Then he made me walk home, barefoot. On tar roads. In the hot sun. At high noon.” (p. 132). The women were considered to be objects like mindless creatures placed there for their pleasure. Tyson (2006) stated, “Women are also oppressed by what Guillaumin calls “direct physical appropriation,” by which she means “the reduction of women to the state of material objects” (74) and which she compares to slavery and serfdom.” (p. 99). Thus, the patriarchal state, as they knew it kept women dependant of men within their society. All acts of social interaction would mandate approval or be conceded by the male authority which was a constant reminder of submission that inhabited them.

In “The Book of the Dead,” an artist had been convinced that her father was a prison inmate inHaitifor a year, and had been driven by her respect and pity for him to sculpt him repeatedly in positions of powerlessness as he was considered the “other” and inferior. Tyson (2006) stated, “The word woman, therefore has the same implications as the word other. A woman is not a person in her own right. She is man’s Other: she is less than a man; she is a kind of alien in a man’s world she is not a fully developed human being the way a man is.” (p.96). The character had been subjected to patriarchal programming and was in search of a perspective beyond the ideology. Tyson (2006) wrote, “For example, related to the problem of the possibility (or impossibility) of getting beyond any ideology that dominates the way we think is the problem of one’s own subjectivity: one’s own selfhood, the way one views oneself and others, which develops from one’s own individual experiences.” (p. 95) She had the capability of interpreting the negative space within artwork and in life as Danticat (2004) wrote, “Ka, he says, “when I took you to theBrooklynMuseum, I would stand there for hours admiring them. But all you noticed was how there were pieces missing from them, eyes, noses, legs, sometimes even heads. You always noticed more what was not there than what was.” (p.19). Her artwork had shown the oppression that her father endured in her mind during his struggles in prison as the prey when in reality he was the hunter. To take it one step further, her artwork showed a part of her father that was not present, that could not be seen: powerlessness.

When the president escaped in exile, all his supporters were hunted down. The Haitian man who killed people for the government fled the country and started a new life inAmerica.

   In “Book of Miracles,” the Haitian-American community organized a form of activism to try to uncover Emmanuel Constant, the Duvalier era war criminal who was allowed to relocate toNew York Cityafter the fall of the dictatorship. It was Anne’s story that unfolded as she was the wife/mother and victim of The Dew Breaker whose suppression of her anxiety was apparent through her religious beliefs and longing for miracles as she donned being the devoted wife to a reformed murderer. The threat of revealing the past lingers and haunted her as she walked the streets and passed fellow transnational individuals. She never knew when a gathering against “Baby Doc” or some other conflict might surface categorizing the man who holds her heart, the hardworking barber, the kind father of their daughter. Miracles to this character represented the hoping to confirm the transformation of her husband and the love she held for him considering her half brother the Catholic priest, was the last man her husband killed.  Danticat (2004) stated, “It was always like this, her life like a pendulum between forgiveness and regret, but when the anger dissipated she considered it a small miracle, the same way she thought of her emergence from her occasional epileptic seizures as a kind of resurrection. (p. 86). She was the balancing force of forgiveness and was considered the “good girl” as her virtues were associated with the aspects of patriarchal femininity and domesticity. She was self sacrificing, patient and nurturing. Tyson (2006) stated, “Clearly, according to patriarchal thinking, the woman occupies the right side of each of these oppositions, the side that patriarchy considers inferior-heart, mother, nature, palpable, moon and passivity – while it is assumed that the male is defined by the left side of each opposition, the side that patriarchy considers superior: head, father, culture, intelligible, sun and activity.” (p. 100). Anne had reinforced the patriarchal stereotypes prevalent to the book when it was written, “My mother is whispering now, as though there’s a chance she might also be overheard by my father. “You and me, we save him. When I meet him, it made him stop hurt the people.” (p.25).

In “The Funeral Singer,” a group of three young Haitian women meet in a high school equivalency class inBrooklynfind themselves struggling to pass the GED test, which two of them consistently fail. The women met regularly at a restaurant one owned on theUpper West Side. The sisterhood was shared through the experiences of intertwined horrific memories stemming from the wrath of their oppression.

Rézia’s story began living in a brothel with her aunt, a woman who was active in the labor force and was the keeper. It unfolded tragically as a Tontons Macoute uniformed man utilizing his patriarchal manipulation and power, raped her. During the brutal and horrendous act, her aunt had no choice but to close her eyes and allow it while she was in another room. Tyson (2006) claimed “In other words, if one is born with the biology of a female, one’s place in society is accorded few rights – particularly the right to own and control one’s body sexually, both in terms of the kind and number of sexual relationships one will have and in terms of abortion and contraceptive rights – than if one is born with the biology of a male.” (p. 103). These two women were vulnerable, inferior and could have been sent to prison or worse. Danticat (2004) wrote, “I can always make myself faint when I’m afraid, Rézia says, fanning the smoke from the pots away from her face. When I woke up in the morning, my panties were gone. My aunt and I never spoke about it. But on her deathbed she asked for my forgiveness. She said this man had threatened to put her in prison if she didn’t let him have me that night.” (p. 173). It was obvious that the patriarchal culture and fear within the character and her aunt led to an unavoidable position of being the substandard ones. Irigaray (1985) wrote, “…women have two choices: (1) to keep quiet (for anything a woman says that does not fit within the logic of patriarchy will be seen as incomprehensible, meaningless) or (2) to imitate patriarchy’s representation of herself as it wants to see her (that is, to play the inferior role given to her by patriarchy’s definition of sexual difference, which foregrounds men’s superiority).” (Tyson, 2006, p. 101)

Another survivor, Mariselle, described the details of the events leading to her husband being shot and killed after painting an unflattering portrait of “Papa Doc” Duvalier. After his death, she was invited to sing at the national palace and refused. As per her mother’s request, she fled. The third, Freda, a daughter of a fisherman, told of her father who owned a fish stall that had been over powered by the Macoute and then taken and physically beaten only to return with a mouth full of blood and no teeth. He took his boat out to sea, never to be seen again. At his funeral she sang “Brother Timonie,” taught to by her father long before he was tortured.

The name of the song meant “steersman” and soon after she was in demand at other funerals. Danticat (2004) wrote, “The first time I ever sang in public was at my father’s memorialMass.I sang “Brother Timonie,” a song whose cadence rises and falls, like the waves of the ocean. I sang it through my tears, and later people would tell me that my sobs reminded them of the incoming tide. From that moment on I became a funeral singer.” (p.175). The women communicated, drank and sang explained by Danticat (2004), “…Brother Timonie, Brother Timonie, we row on without you. But I’ll know we’ll meet again.” (p.181) The psychological trauma lived within their hearts which was expressed by the author, “And for the rest of the night we raise our glasses, broken and unbroken alike, to the terrible days behind us and the uncertain ones ahead.” (181).

    None of these women were able to leave behind the tortured island of their birth yet, each was in search of a way to release it. Each woman was subject to patriarchy in a different manner, no two experiences were identical. Paul-Austin (2007) had written, “Not discouraged, nor demoralized, Haitian women would reveal themselves to be resilient and resistant to male domination and the patriarchal manner of regulating social, economic and political life.” Beatrice was formerly a funeral singer inHaiti, and decided she must return home in order to fight against the causes that lead to the Dew Breaker’s reign, which is what caused her to sing for so many senseless deaths. She had reinforced the French feminist Beauvoir (1972) theory maintaining, “…that a woman should not be content with investing the meaning of their lives in their husbands and sons, as patriarchy encourages them to do.” (Tyson, 2006, p.97).

In reviewing the various theories I believe Womanism closely recognized the battles of these women as Ebunoluwa stated (2009), “The triple oppression of Black women wherein racial, classist and sexist oppression is identified and fought against by womanists, as opposed to the feminism main concern with sexist oppression.”

In conclusion as the book continued to unfold the characters began to portray more of a unitary gender system. Both men and women were being prosecuted. It made no difference if an individual was a male or female the oppression went across the board. Helliwell (2000) explained that many societies view the gender differences as non existent, “Gerai people see no differences between men and women.” (Tyson, 2006, p. 111) and neither did this dictatorship.



Braziel, J. E. (2008). Diasporic Disciplining of Caliban?Haiti, theDominican Republic, and Intra-Caribbean Politics. Duke University Press, 12(2), 149-159. Retrieved February 15, 2010 from

Danticat, E. (2004). The Dew Breaker.New York; Vintage Books.

Ebunoluwa, S. M. (2009), Feminism: The Quest for an African Variant. Retrieved February 16, 2010, from

Mohammed, P. (1998). Towards Indigenous Feminist Theorizing in the Caribbean. Feminist Review, 59, 6-33. Retrieved February 3, 2010, from              es&term=haiti&term=feminist&term=1960&list=hide&searchUri=%2Faction%2FdoBasicSearch%3FQuery%3Dfeminist%2B1960%2Bin%2Bhaiti%26gw%3Djtx%26prq%3D1960%2Bin%2Bhaiti%26Search%3DSearch%26hp%3D25%26wc%3Don&item=2&ttl=436&returnArtic            leService=showArticle&resultsServiceName=doBasicResultsFromArticle

Paul-Austin, M.C. (2007). Status of women inHaiti: Why women have been excluded. Retrieved February 10, 2010, from

Regents of theUniversityofMinnesota. (2009) Retrieved February 13, 2010, from

Tyson, L. (2006). Critical theory today; A user –friendly guide. New York, Routledge.

Vince, G. (2004). Everyone is a potential torturer. Retrieved February 10, 2010, from

Biology is Fate ~ The David Reimer Case   2 comments


As nature made him: the boy who was raised as a girl

Three influences on David/Brenda’s Reimer‘s gender identity development: Innate influences, The psychiatric field and The medical field.

Gender Essentialism

Before clarifying what gender essentialism is, I would like to explain what essence means. It is, “taken to be hidden, identity-determining aspect of an organism that remains unchanged over growth…[1]” Gender is seen as a part of nature or essence of one’s biological makeup. This theory was described in our lecture as the, “approaches that investigate biological factors influencing gender differentiation, including those which are pre-natal and environmentally caused.”[2]  This notion referred to all members of a particular gender group sharing common characteristics and behaviors. Their essence is different as women are naturally dissimilar from men in character and personality. Goldberg (1993) discussed the sex differences stating that, “… male hormones such as testosterone are a major source of sex differences in motivation, ambition and behavior” (Crompton, & Lyonette, 2005, 604).

Unfortunately, the repercussions of this concept are that society sustains gender inequalities while generalizations and assumptions are made stereotyping an entire gender group leading to prejudice and discrimination. According to Smiler, & Gelman (2008), “Essentialism is important because of its implications for human reasoning, both positive (encouraging one to extend knowledge in new ways, by making inferences from one category member to another) and negative (e.g. encouraging stereotyping of social categories…)”(p.864). Gender stereotyping and the set beliefs about characteristics may, for example, limit the expression of the individual’s aptitudes and interests but, define culturally agreed notions of what are gender appropriate behaviors. (para. Golombok & Fivush, 19). Traditional gender roles are based on an underlying biological determinism, as Golombok & Fivush (1994) commented, “…gender-related behavior is complexly influenced by many factors, including biologically based differences between females and males, children’s developing conceptualizations about gender, and adults gender-related beliefs and expectations” (p.23).

One example that demonstrates the power of the gender essentialism theory regarding Brenda/David’s development of gender identity was when she entered kindergarten and proceeded to go to the bathroom in a way that was innate, by standing up. A little girl asked, “How come Brenda stands up when she goes to the bathroom?”[1] Dr. Money had responded that, “…Benda’s continuing unorthodoxies in the bathroom resulted solely from the condition of her uncompleted vaginal surgery” (Colapinto, 2000, p.93).  She fought to get over the social stigmatism of being reared as a girl while on hormone replacement therapy. Brenda/David’s life had been a struggle to conform to what society thought he/she should be. But his mind did not match his body, it was not natural for him to wear lipstick and cross his legs. According to Golombok & Fivush (1994), “As a teenager, she experienced identity problems, including concern about her masculine appearance and preference for a masculine occupation” (p.45)

[1] Colapinto, J. (2001). As nature made him: the boy who was raised as a girl. (p. 61).

A second example is the week after his fifteenth birthday; he declared to the world that he was in fact a boy. He used tape to flatten his breasts and dressed as a young man in a suit and tie.  His gender differentiation was influenced by his biological makeup confirming gender essentialism. This example demonstrates the power of the theory. According to King (1993) who discussed, “…an ongoing debate regarding the etiology of transgenderism has been over whether there is a biological essentialism of male and female that is transhistorical, transcultural, “natural,” and “essential” that exists “independent of our knowledge” (Istar, 2004, 114). Biology is fate. The causes and consequences of gender difference and inequality are pronounced.

Gender Environmentalism

Gender environmentalism gives emphasis to the part of societal practices in creating and preserving gender distinction. Researchers have proven that strong gender differentiation happens in environments in which gender is emphasized functionally or linguistically.[1] Fagot and Leinbach (1989) for example, “…reported that pre-school children whose parents were more attentive to sex-typed toy play showed earlier labeling of gender and increased levels of sex-typed play than did children whose parents were less attentive to such play” (Liben, L. S. & Bigler, R.S. & Ruble, D. N. & Martin, C. L. & Powlishta, K. K., 2002, p.9). Janet and Ron stressed that she play with dolls, a toy oven (which she took apart), that the language and pronouns were correct and she dress like a girl with long flowing hair to induce female attributes.           

They followed the concept of what was masculine and feminine and clearly defined it in the home environment as gender identity development begins in the home. The societal terms of normalcy and practice were apparent in the clothing as girls wore pink dresses, played will dolls and learned to be lady like whereas, boys wore blue t-shirts, played with trucks and enjoyed getting dirty. She/he tried to conform as part of a societal practice in learning to walk like a girl by requesting Janet’s help for her to lose her boyish stride as the need to fit in was strong. This resulted in placing a book on her head which felt unnatural.

One example that demonstrates the power of the gender environmentalism theory regarding Brenda/David’s development of gender identity was when she entered kindergarten and proceeded to go to the bathroom standing up. Part of societal practices is for a girl to sit when going to the bathroom. Because this was impossible for her/him to do, it resulted in her/him being barred from the girls bathroom and threatened by the boys as Colapinto stated, “Brenda was reduced to sneaking out to a back alley near the school to urinate” (p.166).

This theory demonstrated the limitations regarding Brenda/David’s gender identity development. The child was limited through expression, thoughts, and appearance while rebelling against the gender environmentalism concept created for a girl. He was born a boy, just couldn’t prove it.  Dr. Money pushed the nurture and environmentalism concept and reported, “Her behavior is so normally that of an active little girl, and so clearly different by contrast from the boyish ways of her twin brother…” (Colapinto, 2001, 104).


Gender Constructivism

Gender Constructivism was explained in our lecture as, “…approaches which work from the premise that “children are” active agents who develop the schemata that underlie their gender beliefs and behaviors, and then apply these schemata generatively for further processing” (p.8). It is this theory that gender identity development is constructed through social structure such as, interactions with people or their environments. It began with a child’s belief system about individuals which gave them the information they needed to absorb the cultural norms which in turn, reflects their own identity. Lightfoot & Cole & Cole, (2009) discussed the gender schemata which are, “…associated with the cognitive developmental theory as children form concepts about their gender schemata, which they use to process gender relevant information. Incorporated in this theory was the social value of imitating a role and getting responses to behavior.

In Brenda/David’s case, the child was given hormones during his/her gender development which counteracted the schemata as social interactions were negative in tone. Society’s structure for the binary system placed Brenda/David in the middle of two worlds and the observations of gender were not mimicked.  Liben, & Bigler & Ruble & Martin & Powlishta, (2002) remarked, “Social learning theorists have argued that observational learning is a primary means through which children learn “appropriate” gender role behaviors.”

One example that demonstrates the limits of the gender constructivism theory regarding Brenda/David’s development of gender identity was when she entered kindergarten and stood up to go to the bathroom which was considered gender inappropriate. If gender identity development is constructed through social structure where behavior is predicted, then Brenda/David did not live up to the gender expectations within the cultural norm as girls are more likely to model behaviors of their own sex as Golombok & Fivush (1994) mentioned, Just because a child knows the cultural stereotypes about gender does not guarantee that she will want to conform to that stereotype” (p.109).

In conclusion, after discussing the three theories, in my opinion, the gender essentialism had the most power. The concept was based on men and women being born a certain way due to their biological makeup which incorporated hormones and their brains being naturally wired differently. It comes down to one thing, it the simple facts of biology that make an individual who they are in terms of their gender identity development whether male, female, transgender, intersexed, etc. David had apparently never been a girl – not in his mind, where it counts. (Colapinto, 2001, 216).


Colapinto, J. (2001). As nature made him: the boy who was raised as a girl. New York:             HarperCollins Publishers.

Cole, M. & Cole, S. R. (2009). The Development of Children. Retrieved February 24, 2011 from            gKBa&sig=Qg6wc2HQBrk4RPknQIKJpASwh0g&hl=en&ei=UKZqTcPdOoeugQe2g7DMCg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CCsQ6AEwAzgK#v=onepag            e&q=gender%20identity&f=false

Crompton, R. & Lyonette, C.  (2005). The new gender essentialism: domestic and family             ‘choices’ and their relation to attitudes. The British Journal of Sociology, 56(4), 601-620.  Retrieved February 17, 2011, from

Golombok, S. & Fivush, R. (1994). Gender Development. New York: Cambridge Universit             Press.

Istar, A. (2004). Transgender emergence: therapeutic guidelines for working with gender variant people and their families Binghamton: The Hawthorn Press. Retrieved February 22,   2011, from            dwSwRefNrQiolH0&hl=en&ei=oZRjTeCSJZSXtweAh8SwDA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=7&ved=0CEAQ6AEwBg#v=onepage&q=essentialism%20&f=false

Liben, L. S. & Bigler, R.S. & Ruble, D. N. & Martin, C. L. & Powlishta, K. K. (2002). The             developmental course on gender differentiation: Conceptuality, measuring and evaluating       constructs and pathways.  Boston: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing. Retrieved February 20, 2011, from

Pearson, C. & VanHorn, S. B. (2004). Communication and gender . Identity: a retrospective analysis. Retrieved February 21, 2011, from– 1G1-124642768/communication-and-gender-identity-retrospective-analysis

Smiler, A. P. & Gelman, S. A. Determinants of Gender Essentialism in College Students. Sex      Roles, 58(11-12), 864-875. Retrieved February 27, 2011, from   =1&sid=1&Fmt=6&VInst=PROD&VType=PQD&RQT=309&VName=PQD&TS=1298786816&clientId=63430

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