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Rachel Hudgens Mr. Newman English 101: Rhetoric 5 November 2013 Gender Roles and the Family Dynamic

America is no longer the closed-minded nation it used to be. Women are free to make their own choices, and men are no longer the main bread-winners. Although in modern American society some families still practice a family dynamic where the males provide for the family, gender roles are still evolving from where they were in Americas past. In Flight Patterns by Sherman Alexie, the husband, William, is still the one who brings home the bacon, yet his thinking is not that of the stereotypical Neanderthal. The I am man, must get food ideology is fading away. Flight Patterns changes the conventional gender roles in order to show the evolution of the modern American family. William, the bread winner of the family, is supposed to be the strong leader and figure head of his family. His wife, Maria, gave up her job in order to take care of their daughter, Grace. When you scratch the surface of this story, it seems like the normal fifties ideology is in play. The concept that women should stay home, care for the house, watch over the kids, and see the husband off to work is in play. When looking back, however, the reader will find William is much more emasculate; in fact, his feelings for his family are quite romanticized. When talking to a taxi driver, a complete stranger, William reveals rather sappy details of his love for his wife and daughter. He states that I miss them so much I go crazy I start thinking Im going to disappear, you know, just vanish, If Im not home. Sometimes I worry their love is the only thing

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that makes me humanI think if they stopped loving me I might burn up, spontaneously combust and turn into little pieces of oxygen and hydrogen (55). Being female myself, I dont have a clear perspective of male metacognition, but it is almost a given that men dont typically divulge their deepest feelings to complete strangers. William depends greatly on the love he receives from his family. He knows he should act like the stereotypical alpha male: brash, protective, and dominate; but he feels guilty about this role that he must perform. After all William is a man, and men need to work (51). William states that when he goes to work and provides for his family he feels generic and violent (51). This shows the insecurity William has within the niche of his family dynamic. The male of the family no longer wants to have the responsibility of providing for his family; instead, he would rather stay home and look over his family. Similarly Maria would rather have William stay home as well. Maria is a loyal stay at home mom. She gave up her job so that William could go and support the family financially. Maria understands that there needs to be some source of income, but she would much rather have William at home and not have to travel for work. Something else that breaks the typical family dynamic is that Maria is the sexually aggressive partner in their marriage. Cancel your flight and come back to bedTake off your clothes and get in bed (50). It is atypical for the female to be the sexual aggressor in a traditional marriage, as most would associate the male in the relationship with being the sexually charged partner. Marias sexuality may hint at a slightly more feminist view point. She obviously does not view sex as chore the woman does for the husband, as it was often seen in the past. She embraces her sexual side and is confident about it. One can make the assumption that Maria would be that confident in every task that she does. It definitely breaks the boundaries of how a housewife is seen as.

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Even the daughter, Grace, breaks away from the clichd idea of whimsical little girls. Instead, she is consumed by androgyny. She states I dont want long hair, I dont want short hair, I dont want hair at all, I dont want to be a girl or a boy, I want to be a yellow and orange leaf some kid picks up and pastes in his scrapbook. (51). Grace doesnt want to be identified by gender at all. This is rather peculiar because as youths we see gender as polarizing truths. Phases like blue is a boy color or that show is for girls are not that uncommon. Children turn to what their gender dictates as acceptable in order to conform with their peers. Grace shows great maturity by not wanting to assimilate with the population of her female peers. Williams daughter breaks the typical family dynamic by not acting like a princess, but instead acting gender neutral. Williams Family does not stick to the confines of what Americans used to see as a typical family dynamic. Although the husband is still the provider for the family in this story, the characters speech and thoughts prove that America is moving away from the stereotypes we are all common with. William the alpha male is very sensitive, Maria the housewife is the sexually aggressive one, and Grace the princess is void of any desire to be categorized by gender. Perhaps Sherman Alexie wrote this piece to analyze the evolution of the American family dynamic. These new ideas of gender roles within a family seem rather progressive, but perhaps one day in the future this will be the new normal.

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Work Cited Alexie,Sherman. Flight Patterns. 2003. The Norton Introduction to Literature. Ed. Alison Booth, J. paul Hunter, and Kelly J. Mays. 9th ed. New York: W.N. Norton and Company, 2005. 49-61. Print.