Free Essay: Gender in Ellison's Stories

Published: 2023-02-09
Free Essay: Gender in Ellison's Stories
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Fiction Women Character analysis Gender in literature
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1446 words
13 min read

Harlan Ellison is majorly known for his best speculative fiction and other short stories and Tv shows. Most of the times, science fiction faces social criticism majorly from the way that they represent themes such as gender. The works of Harlan Ellison are no exception to these criticisms. It is possible to point out weaker instances in Ellison's works; however, it is important to discover the message that the author is trying to pass regarding their lives, society and politics. Writers in the new era may still hold on to the traditional perception of women as objects of sex, and Ellison's works "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream" (1967) and "A Boy and His Dog" (1969) are no exception. Harlan uses both Ellen and Quilla June as a representation of sex as the new social orders in gender politics.

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Harlan describes Ellen in "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream" as the only woman survivor whose role is to provide sex for the men. Through this story, Harlan employs one of the most significant ways of playing with gender roles in the society of his era. The author uses Ellen to represent women as sexual objects who are both useful and dangerous to their male counterparts in post-war times. Because she is a woman, it is unfortunate that through rape, Ellen is made to feel guilty. The four men's main struggle is redemption while for Ellen, the battle is on victimhood and the guilt. The author thus explores the trends that he saw in his own cultures during his time that, the same way a computer is an object of mass destruction, the woman is an object of sexual pleasure and fall.

Similarly, in the story "A Boy and His Dog" the author portrays the female character Quilla as weak, manipulative and a prostitute. Vic's primary focus at the beginning of the story is to find a woman that will help him satisfy his sexual needs. In this story too, Vic only prepares to rape the woman who they had just first seen at the YMCA building. Quilla is seen as weak because, despite the sex they had before Vic left for Topeka, she still feels emotionally hurt and apologizes to Vic when he gets back. The principal character that Quilla plays is to lure men on the surface back to Topeka. She has all the features of a beautiful woman and is thus used as a man's weakness. In Topeka, Vic notices that he is to be used to help produce men since the female kind were enough. "But, well, we find now that some of our folks can't have babies, and the women that do have mostly girls. We need some men..." (Ellison 237). Ellison uses a feminist point of view to show that men were needed in Topeka to help reproduce the more male species and the only way to bring them was to use a woman to lure them to Topeka. The only thing that Quilla was so desperate about is love. Despite her being the brave kind, she is naive and desperately seeks for love. Unfortunately, her devotion results in her demise. The portrayal of a woman as weak in Ellison's works is a trend in science fiction series, but the combination of being female and dangerous spells out disaster.

Ellison's stories are concerned with the relationship between women roles and the contemporary social culture. According to the social culture of this era, women were objects under full control of men as the author narrates it; "Gorrister slapped her. She slumped down, staring up at poor loonie Benny, and she cried. It was her great defence, crying. We had gotten used to it seventy-five years before. Gorrister kicked her in the side" (Ellison 470). This phrase is a representation that the woman had little physical strength to protect her from the men, and so the only way she could be protected was to make herself vulnerable through crying. The women were lesser beings in these times and men could do anything that they wished with them, including beating. However, Women can be viewed in two different ways; either as pure or evil and dangerous. Women attractiveness, just as presented in the creation story of the bible, are attributed to the cause of evil in the world. Despite the weakness, Ellison present's Quilla as a brave woman when she decides to come to the surface. The author shows that the surface is dangerous and that by Quilla coming to the surface was only risking rape and even death. The story "A Boy and His Dog" is set in an era when forced sex was the order of the day on the surface of the earth.

Harlan Ellison's representation of women may be as a result of the belief that there is no significant difference between the sexes; instead, gender roles are defined in society through social conditions. What the stories, symbolize are left for the readers and the viewers. According to the author, Ellen was the only woman left in the world with four men and considering her sexual desire, and it was more likely for her to have sex with the men. However, the most significant question is why the author could diversify more on the roles of the woman but rather concentrate only on their sexual function.

Ellison approaches a feminist position in regards to the power of the womankind. In both stories, women are represented as weak; however, they emerge and use their underestimated strength to try and overpower the men. Additionally, even though women play a softer role, they are one of the significant characters of the stories. Through this, Ellison proves the point that women are as valuable as their male counterparts; the only difference is the nature of the characters. The woman plays a role in Ellison's stories where others can easily control her; and to prove this point, the readers are made aware of the danger of placing the female a significant mutant power as in the case of Quilla. A critical look at the two articles by Ellison, the over-sexualization of women characters is unlikely to change even in the modern world because of the cultural understanding that female is helpless without a male around her. The story "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream" gives insight to women to articulate feminist politics as many of similar fiction stories presents speculative features and characters that draw from the contemporary feminist evaluations of the society.

Ellison needed to use the woman as the main character to convey the message of sex because the stories are presented during the times of the aftermath of the nuclear war that shook the whole world. Basing on gender politics, these were the times when the surface of the earth was majorly occupied by ravaging gangs mostly composed of males. The female was a representation of undermined but unavoidable powerful creatures. This is seen when Vic pictures women as subhuman who can be used and disposed of. He says "All the ones I'd ever seen had been scumbags that Blood had smelled out for me, and I'd snatchn' grabbed them" (Ellison 210). This context proves the undermined power role that women play in the stories that turn to be as powerful as the narration progresses.

In conclusion, Ellison's interpretation of gender roles was quite timely, considering these were the times of post-war when sexism was widespread. Just like his representation of technology, women are used to showing the myriad of fantasies that they can permit. The author Ellison used women in scenes of violence and sex as a way to flow with the new wave of science fiction in the time of writing. Ellison present women as weak in the story and at the same time, make them play roles of significant characters in the stories. The author uses Ellen to represent women as sexual objects who are both useful and dangerous to their male counterparts in the times of the aftermath of the war. It is unfortunate that through rape and violence, the female character is degraded to bring the concept of power. Also, Harlan Ellison's representation of women originates from the fact that there is no major difference between the sexes, instead, social conditions are used to define gender roles. Ellison also uses a woman as the main character to convey the message of sex because the stories are presented during the times of the aftermath of the nuclear war that shook the whole world.

Work Cited

Ellison, Harlan. A Boy and His Dog. Open Road Media, 2016.

Ellison, Harlan. I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream. eReads. com, 2009.

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