Gender Roles
I have thought about many different ways to organize this paper and have come to
the conclusion that the best way to approach the topic is on a book-by-book
basis. My perceptions of the gender biases in these books vary greatly and I did
not want to begin altering my views on each so that they would fit into certain
contrived connections. What interests me most in these stories is how the
authors utilize certain characterís within their given environment. Their
instincts and reactions are a wonderful window into how the authors perceive
these "people" would interact with their surroundings and often are either
rewarded or punished by the author through consequences in the plot for their
responses. Through this means we can see how the authors expect their characters
to behave in relation to their post in the world. We must be very careful as
readers to judge these biases based only on evidence within the text and not
invent them from our own psyche due to the individual world we know. In Louis

Sacharís award winning book Holes, we see gender biases in many characters.

The first and most obvious bias in this book can be found in the way Sacharís
characters address Mr. Pendanski, one of the staff members at Camp Green Lake.

Many of the boys refer to him sarcastically as "mom", and it is not because
of his loving nature. Mr. Pendanski is neurotic about things the boys consider
trivial and he has a tendency to nag them. Because Mr. Pendanski is portrayed as
the antithesis of Mr. Sir, who simply drips testosterone, others view him as a
female for his weakness. The fact that Sachar allows his characters to equate
weakness with femininity, or more accurately motherhood, shows a certain bias
towards the supposed strength that innately accompanies masculinity. This
attitude is only furthered by the fact that the rest of the book as almost
totally devoid of female characters other than the witch-like caricature
presented to us in the form of the warden. She comes complete with a vicious
disposition and poisonous fingernails. The most interesting part of this bias is
that the boys chose to name Mr. Pendanski "mom" in light of their own
personal family histories. I think it can safely be assumed that not many of
these boys had a functional relationship with their parents or they probably
would not be in Camp Green Lake to begin with. These boys chose to place Mr.

Pendanski, a whiny and unrespected man in the grand scheme of things at camp, in
the role of mother. They did not turn to the only woman present at the camp, nor
the man who disciplines them each day, to fill their maternal needs. Instead
they turn to the weakest figure in their lives and mock him by referring to him
as a woman. This demonstrates to us that Sachar considers femininity a weakness
in this world and has no issues showing us. As Ernst wrote, "How easy is it to
relegate girls to second class citizens when they are seen as second-class
citizens, or not at all" (Ernst 67). This point is only furthered by the fact
that the only woman present is such a fairy tale character. She is portrayed to
us as all but a sorceress and it can be assumed she has taken on this persona in
order to survive in a predominately male post in a totally male dominated
environment. Even in our class it was evident that many readers were taken aback
by the fact that Sachar chose to make his warden a female. And so it again can
be seen that Sachar has imparted onto us a bias that a real woman could not
function in this world so he had to invent a completely fictional and grandiose
one. With all the other characters in the book appearing so human, it seems
obvious he turned the warden into a beast because he felt he had to. In What

Jamie Saw, by Carolyn Coman, gender bias shows itself in a new way. In this book
masculinity and evil seem to go hand in hand. There is the character of Van, who
is pretty much the same abusive man from every after school special and info-mercial
we see during primetime, doing terrible things to a defenseless family. Then
there is Jamie, who by my estimation is one of the meekest male characters I
have encountered in a childrenís book. Finally we have Earl, who is such a
hollow character that I truly believe he is merely Comanís