Subverting Hegemonic Masculinity through the Novels of Michael Chabon and Tom Wolfe
A Dangerous Fiction investigates the ways in which Chabon and Wolfe strip masculinity of any illusion of an essential nature and expose it as something highly culturally dependent and explains how these novels suggest to understand masculinity in the contemporary world.
CHAPTER TWO: Playing at Being Men: Sport in Wolfe’s A Man in Full and The Bonfire of the Vanities and Chabon’s Summerland 65
65 CHAPTER 2 Playing at Being Men: Sport in Wolfe’s A Man in Full and The Bonfire of the Vanities and Chabon’s Summerland Sport performs a number of functions in contemporary Western soci- ety. It not only promotes health and fitness, but provides a focal point around which a community can bond, it can be a valuable tool in the enhancement of the self-esteem of the individual, and it provides an arena in which one can perform one’s strength and stamina and strive for unique ability. All of these functions can have an undeniably posi- tive value; however, they also have their equally destructive content, particularly in the field of gender. As David Whitson notes, sport “ri- tualises aggression and allows it to be linked with competitive achievement and, in turn, with masculinity” (27–28). It is an arena “in which other kinds of physical prowess have become devalued and in which direct aggression is officially legitimate” (Whitson 28). In this way, representations of sport and sporting prowess offer a particular insight into the simultaneous representation and construction of a dominant and ultimately restrictive masculinity. Wolfe’s A Man in Full and The Bonfire of the Vanities, and Chabon’s Summerland, are texts that critique masculinity as it is popularly understood in contemporary America, through their repre- sentation and evaluation of sport in that culture. A Man in Full con- structs a picture of an aging sporting hero in Charlie Croker, while Bonfire portrays characters currently attempting to achieve their ideal physicality....
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