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Formal Writing Assignment

1095 words - 5 pages

In many southern areas, family and gender roles have been clearly defined and were generally followed closely for years. Carson McCullers’ The Ballad of the Sad Café features one character, Marvin Macy, who strictly abides by the set gender roles. However, The Ballad of the Sad Café also features Miss Amelia and Cousin Lymon, who do not abide by the roles set for their genders and instead exhibit the characteristics of the gender opposite of their own. As a result, Miss Amelia is seen as a somewhat intimidating individual while Cousin Lymon is seen as the weaker of the two. Even today, men and women are expected to fulfill certain roles and are often viewed negatively if they stray from them, though many of the expectations of gender roles have shifted over the years (O’Neil). This is partially due to societal changes and the factors that caused them. Characters like Miss Amelia and Cousin Lymon who do not abide by traditional gender roles influence the evolution and perception of gender roles over time.
Miss Amelia is described as a large and imposing woman who, though she mostly keeps to herself, frequently tries to assert her dominance by suing the townspeople whenever she can. She also treats the townspeople when they’re sick and works to create her own medicine that she tests on herself to make sure it will work. She is unmarried, and her previous marriage lasted a mere ten days before she drove her husband to file for divorce. Because she and her ex-husband, Marvin Macy, were both extremely masculine characters, neither was willing to be seen as anything less than the dominant figure in the relationship. This coupled with the fact that Miss Amelia had no attraction to Macy to begin with drove their marriage to its end. Conversely, because Cousin Lymon had a more feminine personality and was smaller and more submissive than Miss Amelia, the two immediately had some sort of connection and were able to stay together for years, though they were never married. Miss Amelia’s masculinity wasn’t necessarily punished or disparaged, and she was generally liked by the townspeople because she provided them with medicine, but Cousin Lymon was regarded as a nuisance and a gossip and was only allowed to live in the town unscathed for so long because he and Miss Amelia were so close. Whereas Miss Amelia and Marvin Macy’s personalities clashed, Cousin Lymon and Miss Amelia’s personalities complemented each other well, allowing their relationship to be more successful.
The Ballad of the Sad Café was originally published in 1951, when many Americans had a clear view of what they thought the typical family should be and how men and women should look and behave to attain this goal. Women were expected to bear children, take care of the house, and were generally expected to be submissive to their husbands. Men were expected to provide for their families and often were the decision makers of the family. The media, especially television shows that were popular...

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