Over the course of this week, I noticed many book-lover sites started posting cute pictures depicting the same concept: men are better in books. I would venture to say that women probably are as well. This got me to thinking about the types of characters that come out of novels and a conversation I had with my mother about a novel I just finished. We were discussing whether the author broke characterization by making her male protagonist wimpy in a certain situation. During the course of the conversation, my mother said his reactions were not realistic.
Can Novels have Realistically Strong Women and Weak Men?
It seems I always come back to talking about walking that fine line of realism in fiction, so I expanded her comment. In society, we expect our men to be strong, defenders of the family, “bread winners,” and leaders. This is slowly starting to change, but the stereotype, I think, has not. We also expect our women to be delicate. In some way they are in need of “saving.” They ultimately find a man over the course of the book and he…as a famous movie once said…completes them. I tend to think the stereotype goes outside of my bubble of experience. I heard a survey the other week that stated women don’t mind dating a man who is more successful (in fact look for it), while men do not want to do the same. Since this is the stereotype, it got me to thinking…how realistic is a novel if the roles were reversed? And does that novel exist?
What I found interesting is that I could think of countless women in novels who were strong. But I couldn’t think of one that didn’t involve a male lead as well. I know this is a big topic of conversation on whether a book would sell without the male lead. Then, of course, there are the feminist classes that would suggest such a book doesn’t exist due to societal stigmas. I fall victim to this “curse.” When reading a female point of view, I automatically look for the love interest.
There is one good novel where I could remember the male character being depicted as “weak.” He wasn’t the lead character, but I think having a weak character as the lead would be tough. The novel is The Horse Whisperer. I will try not to spoil the book for those who still want to read it…because it ends drastically different than the movie…but in the story the mother has an affair with a rancher who is trying to help her child overcome a tragic horse accident that left her with a prosthetic leg. The husband was introduced a few times as a businessman, but was clearly second in control when it came to the relationship with his high-powered magazine editor wife. I believe he was made this way to justify the affair and drive the reader to wanting her to leave her marriage.
What do you think? Are there any good novels that break the stereotype