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Repression of Femininity in The Rain God by Arturo Islas

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The concept of gender roles have always been of interest to authors of all times because it lies far beyond the scope of literature. It is a highly flexible phenomenon that is rooted in cultural, ethnical and social background, so this is why it could be so interesting to explore. The Rain God, a novel by Arturo Islas, is a product of Chicano literature, so it could not avoid considering the theme of gender stereotypes within this cultural group. One of the book’s characters, Miguel Grande, is an example of macho male type who can be characterized by emphasized masculinity combined with repressed femininity.

Speaking about the essence of his repression, it is worth looking at the character in more detail. Miguel Grande can be called a patriarch of the family, which is stressed by his title “Grande”. Although he does not belong to the oldest generation of the family (his mother Chona is still living), his informal seniority is determine by the fact that he is male. As a character, he is severe and arrogant to reflect the pattern of a typical Chicane macho. As a result, the opposite side of his nature is repressed, which gets explicit in his behavior.

The repression of feminine aspects of his nature is expressed in several ways. First of all, the reader is informed about Miguel Grande’s attitude to his son’s upbringing. Fear is usually a sign of repression, when a certain quality is marginalized and ousted as the one which is condemned and not accepted. To show the character’s repression of his weaker and emotional aspects, the author describes his rejection of these qualities in the external world. Thus, he is afraid that his son will fail matching his idea of masculinity, so he is very derogatory about any revelation of emotions. Besides, he believes that any presence of feminine qualities in a man is negative, so he bans his son from playing with toys: "Apologize to your father for playing with dolls" (Islas, p. 16).

The reason of Miguel’s repression of his feminine side is probably his experience of growing with his brother Felix. In fact, Felix is in many ways a reflection of Miguel Grande, his repressed side.  Because Felix is gay, though successfully married, Miguel finds it embarrassing to be similar to him in any way. He recollects the emotional behavior of Felix as an adolescent when he was making a fool of himself, in his opinion. Because of this, any expression and heartiness looks dangerous to Miguel Grande, so this is why he represses any signs of them which he might probably have. Physical contact as a way of compassion is, thus, also a taboo for him. He avoids his own son’s embrace when he tries to express his sympathy for his father: "Don't do that. Men don't do that with each other. Let me cry by myself .Go away"(Islas, p. 93). Repression of emotions is not positive for Miguel Grande, although it helps him keep the mask of a macho and authority in society. In fact, he isolates himself from his brother and his son with no chance to emotionally reconnect with them. Denial of the feminine side of his nature leads to loneliness and dissatisfaction.

Another aspect which reveals Miguel Grande’s repression is his relationship with his wife Juanita.  Although she naively believes that their marriage is almost perfect, he takes his chance to cheat on her with other women. When doing so, he follows his fear to be in a female position again, which would mean to be dependent. He is the one who is afraid of giving in, so in a sense his unfaithfulness is a rebellion against being good and obedient, which would make his feel like a woman. Thus, Miguel Grande avoids all types of behavior that would reveal his weak side and pursues a masculine emotionless way of dealing with people at all levels.

However, repressed emotions of Miguel find their way out in several cases, which means that they cannot be locked forever. One example is his feelings for Lola, which are contradictory to his usual rule of emotionless use of women. To his own surprise, he becomes attached to her and finds himself in a dilemma of making a decision. He is also surprised when he realizes his guilt in relation to Juanita, whom he usually neglects and deceives mercilessly.

Thus, the controversy of Miguel Grande rests on his own fears in the first place. Because he is afraid of revealing part of his nature that makes him seem weak, he chooses to repress it. For most of the time, it helps him remain invulnerable and control things around him. This also seems to give him a benefit compared to other people who are ruled by their emotions. However, it eventually becomes clear that he robs himself when suppressing part of his nature. This prevents him from establishing close contact with his son and his brother, although he loves them. This also results in making his personal life a chaos, which imposes guilt on him. Loneliness is the price that he has to pay for his suppressed emotions, which are closely related to his vision of masculinity and femininity.

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