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The Social Control Mechanism Essay

1036 words - 5 pages

In, Body Work by Sara Paretsky, the Guaman family’s homophobia damages their family by causing both Allie’s rape and death, and the covering up of them. Homophobia manages to cause all of this damage because it is a powerful social control mechanism, meaning it leads individuals towards conformity, and shames and or ostracizes those who don’t conform to the societal norm. In this case, the societal norm is heterosexuality, and homosexuals are shamed and ostracized for deviating from that norm. Allie is ashamed of being a lesbian and decides to serve in Iraq in the hope that she can repent for her “sins,” and her family is so ashamed of her homosexuality that they must deny it, which allows ...view middle of the document...

V.I. understands this well, and explains it to the Guaman’s. “Please, Ms. Guaman, it’s not a big secret. Why turn it into one? What kind of a threat did Rainer Cowles hold over you? If it was to reveal Alexandra’s private life to the world, it’s not a world that cares very much about that kind of secret” (403-404). In this age, homosexuality is more accepted than it has ever been, but the Guaman’s are a very Catholic family that strongly believes in the religion’s doctrine of homophobia. Unlike many families, they see homosexuality as sinful. This strong homophobia leads the parents to go into denial over her sexuality. Lazar Guaman’s protest towards V.I. in the nightclub serves as a perfect example of their denial. “’No!’ Lazar Guaman was on his feet. You cannot speak like this about Allie. She was not that kind of girl. She was a saint on this earth!” (Paretsky, 474). By calling her a saint on earth, in contrast to a lesbian, he shows us that he associates homosexuality with sinfulness. It also shows us that in denying her sexuality, he calls her what he thinks the polar opposite of her true self is. That is not to say that we believe Allie is the opposite of a saint, far from that, but the parents associate homosexuality with sin, so to say that she is a saint, is for them to say that she is heterosexual and free of the sin they associate gayness with.
Clara, unlike her parents, is not really a symbol of homophobia in this book. She does contribute to its ability to be a control mechanism by remaining quiet about the truth for a large portion of the book. For much of the book, she is also in denial over Allie’s sexuality. About halfway through the novel she is still, in fact, displaying denial. “She wasn’t [a lesbian]. She wasn’t. You can’t be saying things like that. She was so beautiful every boy who ever saw her fell in love with her, but she...

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