A Study of Body and Inscribed Gender Roles in Angela Carter’s Nights at the Circus

Surinder Kaur | Assistant Professor, Department of English, S.G.A.D. Govt. College, Tarn Taran
Email: sandhu.surinder85@gmail.com

Human body has always been the subject of learned discussion. Bodies are controlled, supervised and continuously molded to fit within the constraints of heterosexuality. Gender is considered as the natural part of the body. Bodies are categorized on the basis of gender roles: masculine and feminine. Gender theorists have investigated the terms sex and gender and the accepted natural link between the two. These theorists have concluded that while male, female sex is the biology of the body, masculine and feminine genders are cultural constructs. Bodies’ adherence to these gender norms is only an act, a performance. This paper analyzes Angela Carter’s novel Nights at the Circus (1984) from the point of view that gender is a mask, a camouflage, a performance. As Butler notes that if we carry out these gender performances differently, we might be able to disturb the restrictive categories. At the same time feminist critic Luce Irigaray notes that masquerade has the power to thwart the original concept. So she argues that through exaggerated femininity, women can bring out the hollowness of this notion. Characters’ behaviour in the novel clearly indicates that gender is only an illusion maintained to suppress the revolutionary elements. As in the novel, female characters flaunt femininity and but have masculine traits and are strong and successfully challenge the conventional thinking. Male characters are mere caricatures; they are weak and unconfident totally at odds with the gender norms.
Keywords: body, feminine, masculine, gender, performance, culture, natural, construct

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