«What Should a True Man and Woman Be Like?» Essay Sample

What Should a True Man and Woman Be Like?

Introduction

Humanity is divided into two opposite parts — females and males. Apart from the opposite sexes, there are many stereotypes about the features of character, behavior style, and labor division that the representatives of these sexes should possess. Thus, women are considered to be tender, talkative, careful, and devoted to family, while men should demonstrate courage, assertiveness, independence, and emotional strength. Of course, most people combine feminine and masculine traits, but any kind of exaggeration often makes the life of a person and everyone around him/her more complicated. It is natural and harmonious when a man possesses features that are more masculine and a woman displays those more feminine as it helps them build healthy relationship and strong family in the future.

The Main Protagonists of Murakami and Hiroshi

According to social stereotypes, a man should be decisive, courageous, and independent, while a woman should possess such traits as sensitivity, gentleness, and empathy. However, sometimes individuals combine gender roles and break the classical framework of social perception. Thus, the main hero of Hiroshi, Kitayama Toshio, shows courage as he has spent six years in the war army. The author describes the relations between soldiers as selfish rather than sacrificial. When they experience starvation and numerous risks, everyone is ready to sacrifice their comrades’ life for food at once. At the end of the story, Toshio sees a red light on the face of a woman he liked. This light reminds him of his weakness because “I (Toshio) abandoned Nakagawa (his comrade) to his fate in order to preserve my own existence” (Rimmel & Gessel, 2007, p. 292). This weakness, which is generally considered as more common for females than males, stimulates Toshio’s other traits that make his character more feminine than masculine. Accordingly, he becomes too sensitive and tends to suffer more about the past instead of living in the present. Moreover, he is not able to become financially independent enough to provide himself with proper nutrition and ask a girl he likes to have dinner with him. Consequently, Kitayama Toshio’s possession of traits that are more feminine than masculine makes his life hard and incomplete.

Murakami’s protagonist possesses the traits that are opposite to those of Hiroshi’s character. Tony Takitani is independent in all financial, routine, and social matters — furthermore, he is determined as “the fifth time they (Tony and a girl he felt in love with) met he asked her to marry him” (Murakami, 2006, p. 192), and courageous enough to overcome the death of his lover and his father. Takitani, similar to Toshio, attempted to substitute his lost love with another woman, but masculinity features of his character helped him overcome such weakness and he refused from the idea of another woman wearing the clothes of his beloved. This decision eliminated suffering from the heart of Takitani as he realized that he could not do anything with the fact that his wife was gone. Such superiority of logical assumptions over emotional ones is stereotypically common for men. Consequently, the prevalence of the masculine features in his character helped Takitany build a successful career, have a healthy relationship with a woman, and survive tragic events in his life. This combination of evidence proves that corresponding to the stereotypical masculine traits makes lives of male representatives easier and happier. 

Gender Roles and Stereotypes in “A Red Moon in Her Face” and “Tony Takitany”

The authors tend to give their characters men- and women-specific features. If one mixes too many of them, he/she may create the character that would be called a half-man or a half-woman. Thus, a woman is considered to be devoted to her family and lover, as Kitayama Toshio’s deceased mother was, with her “soft hands” (Rimel & Gesse, 2007, p. 276), as well as his beloved — he showed the presence of his love for her only occasionally, but she “gave him everything she had without regret” (Rimel & Gesse, 2007, p. 276). Women are also considered to have to be beautiful as Horikawa Kurato in “A Red Moon in her Face” or charming as Tony Takitama’s wife. It is considered good when a girl is a “capable housewife” (Murakami, 2006, p. 194) like Takitama’s wife and is not tired of raising children if their father is dead, as Toshio’s colleague Yugami Yuku. The weakness for shopping is regarded as common for all women, and Takitama’s wife and a woman working as his assistant, wearing her clothes as uniform, are perfect examples of this. Thus, during their honeymoon, Tony visited nothing but Paris and Milan boutiques where his wife bought a lot of pretty things. She had flawless taste, but was obviously obsessed with luxurious clothes. Even her death in the car accident happened after her decision to return one of her purchase. It was her first and last attempt to change her habit. To underline that such dependence was typical not only of the protagonist’s wife, Murakami presents another female character — Tony’s assistant, who started crying in the wardrobe. She could not explain her behavior, but when she saw so many nice clothes of her size in one room, it “felt like sexual arousal” to her (Murakami, 2006, p.199). Later, she thinks about Takitany’s wife: “I wonder what it must feel like to die and leave so many gorgeous dresses behind” (Murakami, 2006, p. 200). Such kinds of thoughts are typical of females and rarely appear in males’ minds. Thus, according to stereotypical gender roles, women should be beautiful or charming, devoted to their families, able to cope with household chores perfectly, and be extremely passionate about pretty things.

Real men should possess features contrary to the aforementioned ones in order to make their lives meaningful. It means that they should be courageous as Kurako’s husband who volunteered to go to the war for private reasons and who eventually sacrificed his life. Furthermore, men should be independent as Tony Takitani and his father, jazz trombonist Shozaburo Takitani. Both managed to successfully care about themselves in private and financial spheres. Men should also be assertive in their desires, which is proved when Tony chooses the career of an illustrator while still being in high school and when his father stays focused on his music and trombone for his entire life (Murakami, 2006). The desire for marriage and children tends to be secondary for the majority of men, but it does not prevent them from entering marriage. Thus, Tony “never felt desire to have children” and thought that he “will probably never marry” (Murakami, 2006, p. 191), but he proposed to his future wife during their fifth date. Even his father, who loved freedom and women very much, decided to take this step and married his mother, who died after giving birth to Tony. Excessive interest to the representatives of opposite sex is regarded as more justifiable for men than for women. Consequently, Tony’s father “slept with more women than he could count” (Murakami, 2006, p. 185), but it did not lower his “mannishness” level. Also, Tony’s friend contemplates that “even though we lost the war, men will want women” (Murakami, 2006, p. 285). Moreover, real men do not tend to suffer for a long time. Thus, Tony’s father is pained by the news that his mother died and his brother was lost, but he does not feel miserable as Kitayama Toshio and continues to live his life. Tony Takitani was more sensitive than his father, but eventually, he managed to cope with the sorrow due to the death of his wife and father as well. Contrary to Kitayama Toshio who possesses more feminine features, Tony does not search for something what can substitute his loss — instead, he gets rid of his wife’s dresses and his father’s records to stay alone in his apartment, without the shadows of the past that is impossible to change. Thus, stereotypically, real men are considered as courageous, independent, assertive, emotionally strong people, with more or less expressed lust for women.

 
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Existing Binary Challenges for Men and Women

People are not factory details, and despite general characteristics for male and female characters mentioned above, they may combine both feminine and masculine traits. Thus, manly Toni Takitani showed weakness and inordinate sensitivity when his wife was thinking about his offer to marry him. During that time, he “could not work, drank” (Murakami, 2006, p. 193), and even thought about suicide. As a child whose father was more absent than present, he also dealt with household chores, which is proved in the phrase: “[T]he cooking, the cleaning, the laundry he could manage for himself” (Murakami, 2006, p. 190). All these activities are more typical of female gender role. Even such an arrogant and narrow-minded person as Tony’s father demonstrated hidden sensitivity, as after the loss of his wife, he still “had a lot of girls but he never brought any of them to the house” (Rimer & Gessel, 2007, p. 189). Kitayama Toshio from “A Red Moon in Her Face”, on the other hand, demonstrates too many feminine traits. Thus, for many years, he fails to cope with suffering that the thoughts about his first lost love bring to him — “he hated her but preserved her image in his heart” (Rimer & Gessel, 2007, p. 275). Being a soldier, he is “wet with tears nibbling a bun between the blankets” (Rimer & Gessel, 2007, p. 276). This bun contained his reminiscences about his mother and lover, whom he became to appreciate only after their death. Female heroines also demonstrate some traits that are atypical for their softer gender. Despite the loss of her husband and being left alone with a child, Toshio’s colleague Yuko does not let suffering overwhelm her heart and preserves her interest in life. Tony’s wife, though being only 22 years old, manages to secure not only her living, but pay for her great shopping adventures. Moreover, she drives a car, which is considered to be a masculine task. Thus, crossing the boundaries between men and women is common and brings no harm unless it happens too often.

Power Dynamic in Male-Female Relations

There would be nothing wrong in men and women taking their social roles if there was no abuse of power from men’s side. It is obvious that far not all men treat women they like as Tony Takitani and husbands of Horikawa Kurato and Yugami Yuko did. Many use their physical, financial, and emotional power and make women the objects for satisfaction of their physical or moral needs. For instance, Shozaburo Takitani accepts women as important life pleasure similar to food and music, and he always has many of them — “Japanese, Chinese, White, Russian, whores, married women, gorgeous girls, girls who were not so gorgeous” (Murakami, 2006, p. 185). Toshio’s friend also regards women more as the objects of desire and persuades them to have an affair with him. Toshio, in his turn, as a more sensitive personality, does not use women for his physical desires, but as the object of his observation and attention. Despite the fact that he does not love Kurato, he realizes that she is “necessary to him” (Rimer & Gessel, 2007, p. 287). Being financially and emotionally weak, he feels more comfortable in the role of the observer of the object of his dreams than a possessor. Women also often perform a role of substitute of something a man has lost. In view of the main Hiroshi’s protagonist, it is a habitual practice as he substitutes his first love with a woman who loved him but whose breast skin chilled his heart (Rimer & Gessel, 2007, p. 276). However, it did not stop their relations, and he continued to use her love. As soon as she died, Toshio realized his loss and tried to substitute it with the image of Horikawa Kurako. The interesting fact is that a tendency to substitute one woman for another is typical of many men. Therefore, Tony Takitani is tempted to hire a female assistant who would wear the clothes of his wife. Fortunately, he quickly realizes how twisted this idea is and his masculine image is not spoilt. To conclude, social gender roles division manifests with prerogative for both sexes. If they did not neglect their responsibilities and abuse their power, such order could be harmonious — however, men commonly use women as the objects of their physical or moral desires, or try to substitute their lost love with their help, which leads to gender discrimination.

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The Changes in Kitayama Toshio

After reading about manly, wise, independent, and emotionally strong Tony Takitani, there appears a desire to change the end of “A Red Moon in Her Face” story. It is based on the fact that too many feminine features dominate in the protagonist’s character. Toshio is too sensitive, dependent on circumstances, unable to live in the present, and deprived of firmness. When his first lover’s parents do not approve of him, he takes it as a just thing and changes the love in his heart into hate. He also lets the relationship that gives him no satisfaction continue for a long time. At last, even with Horikawa Kurako, after the end of war and the death of his closest people, he does not intend to start from the beginning and continues to chase the past. Feminine features prevent his happiness while even small effort to change himself could eliminate his suffering.

If Hiroshi had given a chance for his protagonist to demonstrate his masculine features in the end of the story, the readers would be more delighted. As soon as Toshio quits his intention to see the place where Kurako lives, the author describes her face as “pained” (Rimer, J.T.& Gessel, 2007, p. 292). This man did not meet her expectations, the expectations of a woman who was selling her things to have some food (Rimer, J.T.& Gessel, 2007, p. 280). For Toshio, it was natural to run from the circumstances and his feelings, but if he had changed his position at the end, it would have added more light to the story.

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If Kitayama Toshio had gone to see life conditions of a woman he liked, he could have expected more happiness in his private life in the future. Since Toshio was aware of her complicated financial position, he, as a real man, had to interfere and at least try to help. If he could not do it financially, he could still be useful physically. There are always things to fix and repair in each house — moreover, together, they could devise a solution and save some money, for example — by sharing an apartment. If Toshio had taken more responsibility for the person near him, the desire to be useful would have given him strength to earn more and act instead of suffer. Under such circumstances, seeing a man who shows love and care, Kurako would have responded accordingly and made him happy in his present, despite the pain of his past. Thus, even the slight manifestation of manliness from the protagonist could have changed his life and the life of a woman near him for the better.

Conclusion

These days, social stereotypes are often critiqued. However, they are supported by the experience of many generations, and despite being old, this experience cannot be considered as useless. Thus, if a man behaves stereotypically as a “real” man should, it is easier for him to build relationship with a woman who possesses more feminine features. On the contrary, if one of them combines excessive feminine and masculine features in his/her personality, it becomes harder to find a partner who would fill the gaps, who would make it possible to build harmonious relationship. The examples of manly Tony Takitani and weak Kitayama Toshio show the rightness of such order. It is better for a man to stay a stereotypically “real” man and for a woman to remain a “real” woman to make their lives happy and free of shadows.

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