Gender Roles in Blu’s Hanging

When reading Blu’s Hanging, I was immediately drawn to the changing gender roles as the children of the family dealt with the death of their mother. Ivah, who is still a child, is left to take care of her two siblings and even her father. She constantly refers back to how her mom left her without a clue and also how she “Never was a mama. Never will be.” (Kincaid 248). There are many aspects of the children’s gender roles in Blu’s Hanging, but more specifically I think that the most useful parts of the text will be to look into the gender roles used in the children’s coping devices after the death of their mother. Each of the children posses different ways of dealing with the death of their mother, and in these coping devices, gender roles are definitely apparent—and in some cases are constantly changing throughout the novel. Although I think this topic has a lot of possibilities, I’m still wondering if I need to narrow it down more in effort to have a more compact analyzes.

Some things I’d like to investigate further are:

1) Are there any other topics concerning gender role that I should touch on? Possibly the similarities between Blu and animals in the text? Maybe even what the animals are gendered as in the text?

2) Are there any other situations in the text where gender roles are clearly apparent (besides in coping devices)?

3) Does Maisie exhibit reversed gender roles? Where?

I chose the topic of gender roles because I think it is a very interesting component of the novel. Without the use of constantly changing gender roles in the novel, the roles of such characters as Blu and Ivah wouldn’t have been nearly as powerful.



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15 responses to “Gender Roles in Blu’s Hanging

  1. aeernst

    4) Do people outside the family affect the gender roles of the children, or do they just emphasize the gender roles the children have taken on?

    I do think this is a very intriguing topic, and you have a lot of material to work with in the novel. You might want to find something specific within gender roles to focus on so you don’t have too much information to work with and become overwhelmed. I really like the idea of your first question and maybe you could focus on that. Overall though, this is a really great topic!

  2. looloo14

    I think an interesting way to look at this topic is by asking the question,
    5) why do the three children often have inconsistent gender roles?
    Other than as a way to cope with the loss of their mother, perhaps it is a result of their extremely instable lives. The children have had to deal with far more serious situations than most children ever will have to over the course of their lives. Maybe this instability requires the siblings to rely on each other in every situation they encounter; they need each other so baldy, not even gender roles get in the way of the companionship they give to each other,

  3. siegvald

    6. Do you think Blu’s reversed gender role plays a part in “feminization” of his binge eating? (typically regarded as “female” problem)

  4. Samantha Cooke

    The gender roles in the novel was interesting to me, more so because I never considered them before. I like your idea of looking at the animals in relation to the gendering of the characters too.
    One question that struck me when I read the novel was:
    7. What if Blu were the oldest child? Would he and Ivah take on the same roles?

  5. I think your analysis of gender roles will make for an interesting paper, however I do not know if just Blu’s Hanging alone will give you enough material to write about. I liked your #3 best, because it has a clear and direct role, in which you will be able to provide both instances and support for. I think writing about #6, is important and will help validate your paper.

    #8 In relation to #6 consider Blu’s eating and how typically it is females who struggle with eating and eating disorders, perhaps this is an instance of gender reversal?

    #9Perhaps you want to consider the period of adolescence in general and how it serves as time in which gender roles as well as identity are being defined? I think this could help paint a better over all picture on the novel and the children’s coping mechanisms.

  6. stperry1

    I think that the most interesting aspect of the novel that your brought up was #1 and how animals become gendered in the novel. However, this novel offers a great deal of information on gender roles and many interesting issues concerning the children. As you said it may be important to focus on one specific issue, which is why I think the idea of focusing on animals being gendered is possibly beneficial.

    #10. How does Ivah support your idea of gender roles in the children and how they fluctuate throughout time?

  7. I think that your thesis does not need to be any more compact and is fine that way it is. I would advise perhaps researching some different types of coping mechanisms as described by psychologists in order to make your thesis stronger. In this case my questions would be:
    11. Do psychologists notice any difference in coping mechanisms and ways of showing grief between males and females? I so what are they?

  8. vrosengrant20

    You have picked a topic that is both interesting and well evidenced within the novel. I think that, in accordance with question two, you should use Maisie as a guide to who is showing which gender roles, especially with regards to Blu. This is prominent in instances where Blu takes care of the emotional aspects of Maisie’s growth and how Maisie’s writings refer to the roles of Blu and Ivah. This can be explored with:
    12.) What roles do Blu and Ivah play in raising Maisie and how does she perceive them?

  9. I think your topic of gender roles is quite interesting. I have studied gender roles frequently since I’ve been attending UF in the many Sociology classes I have taking. There is plenty of material in this novel you can investigate to bring your paper together. Gender roles work as a dominant theme in this novel. Good choice.
    13.) Are there any other novels that contain gender roles being played out similarly in “Blu’s Hanging”? If so, what brought them to be played out this same way?

  10. autumncassidy

    When delving into /Blu’s Hanging/, I myself was intrigued by the many fluid ideas of gender and gender profiling. I found it curious that despite all of the sexual imagery and references, Blu is the only character that is directly and explicitly sexualized.

    Question: How does Blu’s stigma as a male make his constant sexual abuse appear more shocking (if you believe it does) to the audience? If Ivah had been as thoroughly abused as Blu, would the impact have been lesser?

  11. Sophi

    I really enjoyed reading “Blu’s Hanging”, and the topic of gender roles has abundant evidence in the text that you can use to draw parallels. The siblings express behaviors that are usually linked with specific gender roles, but certain environments and circumstances encourage this behavior.
    One question you can consider is:
    15.) Besides the mother’s death, what other situations caused the siblings to act in ways that can be identified with a specific gender? Is there a pattern? For example, consider the way Blu interacts with Ivah and Maisie. Despite the various instances in which he is seen in a “motherly” light, he does not treat both of them in a feminine way. Consider how the siblings’ expressions of gender roles change with the change in their environments and the people they interact with.

  12. I was drawn to question 2, mostly because I’m surprised nobody has mentioned Big Sis. Big Sis is described to be handsome, with short hair and colognes, and she is living with Miss Ito, which are all connotative to her sexual identity. I think it would be good to examine Big Sis, and how she functions in the children’s lives.

    16. How are the characters with atypical gender characteristics treated for these qualities?

  13. ashleighbarraca

    I too find the topic of gender roles very interesting, so I’m looking forward to seeing how your paper goes. I do agree with one of the comments above that just studying Blu’s Hanging in your paper might not give you enough material; however, I think if you delve into topics such as gendered animals and the ages of the characters in regards to their gender roles you should have plenty to work with. I never thought about the animals being gendered in the novel, but of course now that I think about it, dogs are traditionally masculine and cats feminine. The results should be very interesting!

    Another question to think about: 17) Ivah says she was never cut out to be a mama. Does she enjoy being maternal? Is she judged for not wanting to be a mother?

  14. I really like your topic, and I think it’s very interesting! I hadn’t really thought a whole lot about the big role that gender roles has in this text. I am most drawn to question #2, it is interesting to think of how gender roles can function, especially more than being a coping mechanism.

    18) How do the gender roles differ for each character? Do the gender roles stay consistent with what is expected of each character?

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