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Jesika Sultana Goni


Professor Ditch
English 113B
2 April 2015
Nonconformity of Gender Performances
Gender roles are the expectations of how individuals should act, dress, and talk based on
their gender identity. Masculine form is considered as dominant character in which the
expectation is to be strong, brave, courageous, and independent. Conversely, feminine is the
submissive character in which the expectation is to be gentle, sensitive, and dependent. Gender
roles are portrayed in the novel, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Ann
Shaffer and Annie Barrows. The setting of the novel is after World War II. The novel is about a
book club considered as a literary society which helps the members to overcome the dangerous
situation during the war by reading books, discussing them, and getting united with members to
be friends. The society of book club also increases membership and unifies after the war by the
attraction of books. Along with many other topics, gender role was also established in the novel
but in a different way. According to the social norms, although traditionally bravery characterize
men, but it is seen among women characters in the novel. Elizabeth and Juliet reveal
nonconformity of gender performances through their bravery and courage in the novel which
helps to overcome complicated circumstances of relationship and war.
Juliet, the main character, r revealed the nonconformity of gender performances by
refusing Mark. Juliet was in relationship with Mark and they were planning to get married.
Usually females are subjected to be easy and soft personality which led them to be convoyed by
males. Consequently, Mark was also wanting to take control over Juliet but she protected herself

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from being controlled over. As in the book, Clovis Fossey described females in his letter to
Juliet. He said- Women like poetry. A soft word in their ears and they melt- a grease spot on
the grass (Shaffer & Barrows 71). This quote characterized women to be so easy to bend but
the scenario of Juliet showed that women can be independent. She was still on her mind to be
the way she wants to. She did not let Mark to control her. When Mark tried to stop Juliet from
going to Guernsey, as a woman she accomplished her desire and inhibited him from monitoring
her. Dear Mark, Im going to Guernsey tomorrow and you cant stop me(From Mark to
Juliet)Do you want me to drive you down..?(Shaffer & Barrows 154). Juliet stated clearly
that he is unable to stop her which prove that she did not conform the traditional gender roles by
being facile to obey him. Moreover, he offered her to drive on the way to Guernsey while he
was prohibiting her from going there. This situation shows how Juliet as a woman did not only
stayed still on her word, but also pursued him to help on her decision. As she showed her
unchangeable characteristic, it helped both of them to realize how their relation will go.
Consequently later in the novel they seem to break up their relationship. She exceeded the
expected action of remain easy to bend by being strict on self-decision.
Juliet also showed the nonconformity of gender role through proposing Dawsey to get
marry after rejecting Mark. In the end of the novel, Isola describes how Juliet reacted, realizing
that Dawsey has feelings of love for her (Juliet). Isola says- Juliet did surprise me thenJuliet
said she would like a word with DawseyWhat she said was, Would you like to marry me?
(Shaffer & Barrows 271-272). In this part of the novel Isola talks about how Elizabeth surprised
her by proposing Dawsey to marry her. In general, men seem to propose women for love and
especially for marriage, but in this case Juliet changed her role and performed in masculine form.
Bettina L. Ramn specified gender performance in the book, Composing, Gender, and

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Composing gender: The construction. gender is largely dictated by social norms: men are
expected to look strong and fit, and behave with courage, bravery, strength, and dignity. Women,
too, are expected to embody a feminine social norm, and accordingly, are expected to behave
passively and assume secondary positions in public and private life (2). Following this quote,
men are expected to perform courageously with dignity to have large impact on public and
private life and women are expected to not not have large impact on public and private life.
Oppositely, Juliet violated the social norm of gender role by having large impact on her private
life. She exposed her courage to admit her desire to marry him which actually revealed a
positive impact later on. According to the novel Dawsey is a shy character to confess his love
for Juliet and propose to marry. So, when Juliet volunteered to do his job by proposing him, it
was beneficial for both of them to drive their relationship since they love each other. At the end
of the book, they got married (Shaffer & Barrows 274). If Juliet would not brave enough to
handle their relationship by confessing, they might never got married.
Elizabeth is a nonconformist of traditional gender roles by establishing the book club
during World War II. Elizabeth is one of the main characters who did not perform directly in the
novel but mentioned frequently to be a major character. She is the one who first came up with
the idea to make a book club when individuals were living a miserable time with curfew, death,
losing relatives, and living in concentration camp. The book club was to help the members to
overcome the pathetic situations by reading books, discussing them, and having dinner together.
They would be distracted by the club which would help them to keep away from the distressing
conditions of war. Elizabeth invented the club for the oppressed population, thinking about them
as like leaders do to protect their citizens. The article Gender Differences in Leader Emergence
Persist Even for Dominant Women: An Updated Confirmation of Role Congruity Theory by

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Barbara A. Ritter and Janice D. Yoder, discusses about the leadership differences regarding
gender roles. Role congruity theory predicts that women will be less likely than men to emerge
as leaders when expectations for the leader role are incongruent with gender stereotypes (187).
This quote has been discussing about the less probability of women leadership compared to men
because of the expectations due to the gender stereotypes. Since the probability of leadership is
predicted by a theory according to the quote, it is credible as theory is known as a term of
educational experiment. Elizabeth invents and leads the book club to help oppressed individuals
during the dangerous situation as a woman. She led them through the way to find entertainment
on their disturbed life style as like a leader of nation solve problems of his/her fellow citizens.
On the other hand, none of the men seems to reveal such a leadership character throughout the
novel, even though they are traditionally expected and predicted to be leader. She broke the
barrier of assigned gender roles by showing her courage to overcome the situation by the book
club and became a leader to help other member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie
Society (GLPPPS) members.
Elizabeth also became a non-conformance of traditional gender role by protesting against
Adelaide Addison along with leading GLPPPS members in the book club. She expressed her
bravery by slapping Adelaide when she was scaring the little children during their transition.
Adelaide Addison, one neighbor the neighbor of Elizabeth who was telling the children to pray
for their parents because they might be killed by the German soldiers. Listening about not
meeting with their parents in future caused the children to panic. Then, Elizabeth slapped her to
stop terrifying them (127). She contradicted in a masculine way of fighting to stop Adelaide.
Juliet was explaining women character in one of her letter to Isola, discussing about the
characters in her book. God meant women to be Meek, Mild, and Gently Melancholic. So

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much less trouble around the house- pernicious old bat (62)! According to the quote, women
characters are compared to meek, mild, and melancholic to tell that women should be soft in
behavior and talk, avoid troubles, and be peaceful. It is seen that Elizabeth proved to be the
opposite of this situation. She did not keep silence, or talk in mild tone to Adelaide to escape
any trouble. She made the situation harsh by protesting through slapping, rather than keeping
silent to provide peaceful environment. She was brave enough to stand against her and comfort
the children which led her to challenge the norms of gender roles.
Not only in neighborhood, Elizabeth also showed her bravery by protesting in
concentration camp which challenged her gender role. Binta, representative of Nazi soldiers was
hitting a lady on the concentration camp because she was bleeding, but there was no method to
protect it. That situation was very inhumane since the sickness and there was no management to
repair, it was not her fault to be beaten. In this situation Elizabeth stands against Binta by hitting
her back (181). Concentration camp is an infamous crucial place led by Nazi soldiers where
Elizabeth turned to a protester, which reveal her bravery undoubtedly. The article How to
Tame a Wild Tongue also talked about the drowning of female voice We are robbed of our
female being by the masculine plural And our tongues have become dry the wilderness has
dried out our tongues and we have forgotten speech (Gloria Anzaldua 33). According to this
quote, females are enclosed by males priority that females are dried out to expose their
personality. In this case of Elizabeth, she as a female did not forget or delay to speak up against
the unmerciful situation. She did not accept the cruelty going on around her by being silent as
like typical woman should be according to the expectation of gender roles.
Indeed, Elizabeth reveals her nonconformity to traditional gender roles by forming a
social position through all the brave and voluntary tasks. First, the book club caused her to be

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popular in the, since it helped the members to get out of the traumatic situation of war. Next, she
helped many individuals by her caring and lovable personality, such as- helping a polish slave
labor the concentration camp. She was killed in the concentration camp because of her
revolutionary personality which is discussed earlier. She (Elizabeth) hit the German
representative as she was hitting an innocent woman inhumanly. All these brave works evolved
Elizabeth to be beloved to all these individuals and members of the book club since they were all
reasonable. Her social status is demonstrated as she was mentioned often and described by other
characters in the story. She was introduced and acted in the story through flashbacks of other
characters, but she became one of the main characters by performing in major tasks of bravery to
help others on terrible situations which made her important to be mentioned. She had already
violated her gender performances by being brave since bravery is counted as a standard of
masculine form. Moreover, she conquered it by being respected and beloved in the Guernsey
literary society as the article, Self-Identity and Culture discussed the masculine priority in
forming position in society. Dominant groups are composed of people in society with greater
power, privileges, and social status (Jackson II, Glenn, & Willliams 127). According to this
quote, power and status are prime for dominant group, which expose masculine form as
discussed in the introduction. Oppositely, Elizabeth, a female character revealed her power by
all her revolutionary tasks to help others and formed her social status by being respected and
beloved to be memorable in the Guernsey society. Juliet and Elizabeths tasks might harmful to
the situations of war and relation, since they were breaking rules being non-conformance which
could affect disciplines. Instead of being harmful through non-conformity, they seems helpful to
others during the harsh situation of war and relation, such as- Juliets tasks helped on relationship
and Elizabeths tasks helped on war.

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In conclusion, Elizabeth and Juliets character exposes that they did not reveal traditional
gender role throughout the novel, as they showed bravery and courage to help themselves and
others by defeating against complicated situations war and relationship. Although they broke the
rule of social norms, expectations of society, but it did not cause any harm in their GLPPPS
society rather than benefit to exceed challenging circumstances. Elizabeths leadership brought
recreation for other members to get out of traumatic situation of war. Her bravery helped the
children and the lady who was beaten. Juliets courage helped to realize the odd relationship
between her and Mark. Her courage also helped to form the right relationship with Dawsey
since they love and respect each other. All the characteristics- bravery, courage, and leadership
of Elizabeth and Juliet seem breaking the rule of social norm and expectation but they worked
for better. Breaking rule is not always wrong, sometimes they become blessings.

Works Cited
Anzaldua, Gloria. How to Tame a Wild Tounge. Borderlands/La Frontera.

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Bettina, Ramon. Composing, Gender, And Composing Gender: The Construction Of Gender
Variances In Online Spaces. San Marcos,Texas, December 2009
Jackson II, Ronald L; Gelnn Cerise; Williams, Kesha Morant. "Self-Identity and Culture."
Distinguishing Self and Other.
Ritter, Barbara A, and Yoder, Janice D. "Gender Differences In Leader Emergence Persist Even
For Dominant Woman: An Updated Confirmation Of Tole Congruity Theory sychology
Of Women Quarterly 28.3 (2004): 187-193. Academic Search Premier. Web. 26 Mar.
2015.
Shaffer, Mary Ann; Barrows, Annie. The Guernsey Literary and Potatoe Peel Pie Society.
Florida, New York, and Rhode Island: Dial Press, 2009. Print.