In this ay, the Gothic functions as both a noun and a verb, and can be equated to Queer Theory in that it “queers” heterogeneity “truth” claims. The Gothic may appear to stabilize the “natural” order because most novels, and now films, end with the eradication of any “monsters” that have posed a threat to society. However, it is the appearance of the “monster in the first place that gives one pause.
One could argue that the Gothic serves as the repository of all that is repudiated in society as “abnormal,” and, in effect, becomes the binary opposite of what western society deems intelligible and legitimate. In mineral, binaries function as ideological absolutes and exist in pairs that are contingent on one another for their meaning. However, one half of the pair is usually privileged as the original, “true,” and desirable portion of the pair, and the other half takes the position of “other,” undesirable, and an aberration of the “original. Therefore, notions Of what constitutes socio-cultural reality and what constitutes the Gothic depend on this relationship of terminal opposites. That being said, I will argue that although the Gothic seems to perform the dual or double function of stabilizing and destabilize ordered yester, it ultimately becomes a deconstructive tool that exposes western heterogeneity, taxonomic, teleological, epistemological, and theological systems that operate discursively to construct socio-cultural “norms. With such a dual function in mind, I will use the Gothic through Mary Woolgathering Shelley Frankincense; or The Modern Prometheus as a lens to examine the social, cultural, and political order of lain Bank’s The Wasp Factory with the aim of deconstructing ideologies surrounding the “natural” and the manifestation of the Other specifically in regards to a heterogeneity sex/gender system. As a Gothic novel, The Wasp Factory queers or “categorizes” the apparent stability of heterosexuality and the structure of binary oppositions. Ill argue that although the novel appears to subvert sex/gender categories, it ultimately reinforces them through his main character, Frank Calculate. Throughout the novel, Banks shows that the “obvious” incontestability of sex and gender as two (and only two) possibilities is an outrageous notion because there are slippages and categorical exceptions at every turn; Franks hyperglycemia’s identity is clouded by “female” biology. However, the novel returns to an essentialist ND/or “biology is destiny/’ perspective at the novel’s conclusion. Main Banes novel, The Wasp Factory, written in 1984, grapples in part with the longstanding essentialist-constructionist debate: Is man/woman born or made? Bank’s main character, Frank Calculate, must come to terms with being socialized as a male even though s/hell was born with “female” genitalia. Angus, Franks father, is a renegade doctor of biochemistry who, after his wife leaves him, decides to experiment on Frank with hormone therapy.
Angus creates a bizarre story around the mutilation of Franks “male” genitalia by a dog named Saul. When Frank was born, Angus decided not to register h/re birth. As a result, Frank grew up without a birth certificate, National Insurance number, or any formal documentation “to say [he was] alive or [had] ever existed” (Banks 10). Angus Calculate keeps Frank in virtual isolation partially because of the geographic location of their home, and partially because he chooses to educate Frank himself.
Angus is Franks source of knowledge – in fact, because Angus educates Frank at home, he is able to construct/manipulate h/re understanding of the world and the body s/ he inhabits. Frank identifies as masculine, but “he” is “female. S/he struggles with feeling emasculated as a result of h/re apparent accident, and commits murder three times. Frank believes that “both sexes can do one thing specially well; women can give birth and men can kill… [and] consider myself an honorary man” (154).
Just as Angus experiments with the chemical construction sex/gender, Frank experiments with the psychological construction Of masculinity and femininity. The social construction Of Franks body as male stands in direct opposition to h/re biological “beginnings” and makes h/re a Gothic figure, one that destabilize the “natural” binary sex/ ender system, and thereby exposes its compulsory yet arbitrary nature. Franks body troubles the “bounded” sex/gender system because s/he does not fit neatly into one of the two “intelligible” categories.
H/re body also challenges the constructed masculine and feminine qualities that constitute “the human” because humanness is recognizable through the binary lens of the heterogeneity sex/gender system, and therefore, “the subject, [even] the speaking ‘I,’ is formed by virtue of having gone through such a process of assuming a sex” (Butler Bodies 3). However, Judith Butler writes, “perhaps this instruct called ‘sex’ is as culturally constructed as gender; indeed, perhaps it was always already gender, with the consequence that the distinction between sex and gender turns out to be no distinction at all” (Gender 9-10).
Therefore, the novel illustrates the mimetic relationship between the social and the biological, and shows how individuals must reinforce the “reality’ of his/her sex/gender through socio-cultural formative acts. Frank undergoes a rebirth, a re-naming or re-classification of identity as the novel ends. In Franks final reflections s/he says that “our journey,” presumably the Rooney Of life, is “part chosen, part determined” (Banks 244).
I would argue that, in terms of sex/gender, choice is not in equal parts with determination because “choice” only exists within the binary sex/gender system of classification. At birth, there are two possibilities for the basis of identity, and one possibility must be rejected based on the intelligibility of reproductive genitalia. Butler states that “such attributions or interpolations [in regards to the constitution of ‘male’ and ‘female’ bodies] contribute to that field of discourse and power that orchestrates, delimits, and sustains that which lullabies as ‘the human’… And] of those objected beings who do not appear properly gendered; it is their very humanness that comes into question” (Bodies 8). In Bank’s novel, Frank is not “properly gendered,” but rather is gender ambiguous and therefore a fitting subject for a gothic novel. If Frank had not uncovered h/re “true identity,” who would Frank be? Was s/he ever really a man? Does believing or “feeling” that you are a man/woman make you one? And if not, what would make you a man/woman? In characteristic Gothic form, the novel raises unsettling questions for the reader.
However, while it appears that Banks is questioning gender norms, social boundaries, and the arbitrary or “slippery’ characteristics that are meant to categorize men/male and women/female, he ultimately reinforces heterosexuality and the sex/ gender binary by having Frank (re)claim “womanhood” without question. Why is it necessary for Franks sex/gender to be “resolved” or “dissolved” into one category or the other? On the other hand, however, the fact that Frank, as a “female,” is capable of “essentialist” male/masculine behavior continues to problematic binary categorization of sex/gender.
In the novel, Frank was Ron female, but masculine by the somewhat questionable experimental scientific genius of h/re father. The experiment ultimately fails when Frank discovers the ‘truth” about h/re birth sex; s/he is not a mutilated male but actually a female. Banks addresses, or perhaps parodies, the discourse of psychoanalysis byway of Frank being a “castrated” male. By lacking a penis within this system of binaries, Frank is paradoxically a “woman. ” Jonathan Culler notes that psychoanalysis sees women as “not the creature with a vagina but the creature without a penis, [and] is essentially defined by that sack” (CTD. N Chosen-Hardwood 139). The view that women are merely degenerated men is apparent early on in the text when Frank comments matter-of-faculty, “l hate having to sit down in the toilet all the time. With my unfortunate disability I usually have to, as though I was a bloody woman” (Banks 14). This quotation solidifies women’s position as both “less evolved” and “disabled” versions of men. Ironically, Frank fights against the “feminine” effects of being a mutilated male when, if one were to see this situation in Freudian terms, s/he is merely a woman experiencing unresolved anis envy.
Chosen-Hardwood argues that “[Angus’] tale of Franks accidental castration is designed to disable woman, to keep her in check by inculcating in her an awesome respect and envy of the penis” (141 Additionally, it appears that Frank is completely subject to the “law of the father,” which Barbara Creed describes as a “universe of shame” (13). Frank is constantly embarrassed and humiliated by h/re “unmanly” body. Chosen-Hardwood comments that ‘the child’s originally chaotic, intransigent nature is molded into shape by the Law of the Father… And] Franks father is shown to wield absolute power over his daughters understanding of the world” (141 However, Frank unabashedly uses the elements of the abject body as a source of power: “Sometimes, when have to make precious substances such as toenail cheese or belly-button fluff, I have to go without a shower or bath for days and days” (Banks 51). Creed notes that “images of bodily wastes threaten the subject that is already constituted… As ‘whole and proper”‘ (1 3), paradoxically, however, Frank utilizes the abject in order to constitute h/ resell.
Creed further argues that the world of the mother, or maternal authority, “point[s] back to a time… When bodily wastes, while set apart from the body, were not seen as objects of embarrassment and shame” (13). One could argue that Franks character “categorizes” or queers the “law of the father” by incorporating the world of the mother, “a universe without shame” (Creed 13) in regards to the abject body. The novel’s outcome would seem to support an essentialist point of view because Frank is not “made” into a man despite chemical and social influence.
H/re “femaleness” is simply repressed by h/re social environment, but ultimately, h/re “true” sex is revealed. It is impossible to ignore, however, the fact that Frank represents h/ resell as male because h/re father labeled h/re as such. It is reasonable to assume that the development of an individual’s gender identity, according to Richard Allentown, “depends on what label is attached to him or her as a child… Thus biological differences [become] a signal for, rather than the cause of, differentiation in social roles” (CTD. In Woods 4).
Frank adopts a masculine persona because s/he is identified as or named male, and is led to believe that the dog, Saul, destroyed h/re “signaling’ genitalia. It could be said that ender, although strongly dependent on sex, paints a more accurate picture of a person’s identity – allowing for a continuum of characteristics rather than a binary system. If this is so, then it is important to explore what sex and gender mean in a society of naming. Names are signs that carry layers of meaning like signifying strands of a web that sprawl outward from the signified object.
The web is flexible, changeable and forever expanding and its structure forms the social order in which we exist. We can easily conjure several mental and sensory associations from one single word, and therefore e do not simply speak or hear names; we experience them. The spelling of given names is traditionally gendered, or perhaps sexed, to remove ambiguity as is indicated by the homophones Francis Leslie Calculate and Frances Leslie Calculate, the first being the masculine form.
Additionally, it is not uncommon to hear comments like “you don’t look like a Sue,” suggesting that “Sue” is a type and encompasses a preconceived set of characteristics. We evaluate, situate, demarcate and in extreme circumstances, eliminate based on the power of names alone. Names are powerful because they are badges f identification branding us from birth just as “male” and “female” brand us in a heterogeneity society. The very basis of identity stems from the naming of a child’s sex: “Consider the medical interpolation which… Hafts an infant from an ‘it’ to a ‘she’ or a ‘he,’ and in that naming, the girl is ‘girdled,’ brought into the domain of language and kinship through the interpolation of gender’ (Butler, Bodies 7). Throughout the paper I have “named” Frank as “s/he” or “h/beef in an attempt to both confuse and fuse pronouns. This action, however, could be interpreted as merely a hyphenation of two sexes or enders that does not remove or alleviate sexual branding, or it could be interpreted as a hybrid construction or a “neither/nor” representation of sex/ gender.
It IS my intention to linguistically confound the “coherent” sex/gender binary and move towards new identities or signs that leave room for possibilities. As mentioned briefly before, the concept of “gender” appears to blur the distinct binary boundaries of “sex,” but it seems impossible, however, to view gender without making reference to individuals in terms of their masculinity and femininity. Butler argues that “the presumption of a unary gender system implicitly retains the belief in a mimetic relation of gender to sex whereby gender mirrors sex or is otherwise restricted by it” (Gender 9).
Amy Sheldon notes, “speakers of English don’t ordinarily notice anything peculiar about expressions such as ‘the opposite sex,’ or ‘the same sex,’ since these reflect shared, cultural beliefs that gender is about difference, if not dichotomy”‘ (225-26). Sheldon further writes, “critical discussions of gender theory have pointed out the descriptive inadequacy Of theorizing gender as a dichotomy and of assuming that the categories woman/girl’ and ‘man/boy’ refer to either natural or homogeneous social categories” (226). Gender identity is so strongly linked to sex that it is also viewed in binary sets of characteristics.
Ruth Woods argues: It makes no sense… To assume that there is merely one set of traits that generally characterizes men and thus defines masculinity; or likewise, that there is one set of traits for women which defines femininity… [a] unitary model of sexual character is a familiar part of sexual ideology and serves to reifies inequality between men and women in our society. (3) While this may be true, Woods goes not account for the “horror” of gender ambiguity – the UN-named. Gender appears to be a fluid social construction, or in other words, ideas about masculinity and femininity flow on a continuum and exist as such within individuals.
Gender, primarily based on the dichotomy of sex, is problematic because binary opposites are literally lists of extremes that foster an “either this or that” mentality, and leave no room for degrees. Butler also suggests that “sex” is not a fact, but is rather discursively produced in the same way as gender, if not by gender constructions: “gender is not to culture s sex is to nature; gender is also the discursive/cultural means by which ‘sexed nature’ or ‘a natural sex’ is produced and established as ‘percussive,’ prior to culture, a politically neutral surface on which culture acts” (Gender 10).
Therefore, discourses surrounding sex are “gendered” just as discourses surrounding gender are “sexed. ” Butler’s deconstruction of sex as a “natural fact” or as “percussive” undermines the binary sex/gender system as a compulsory basis for identity. The Wasp Factory, however, perpetuates the binary sex/gender system by having Frances Leslie Calculate (a character ho is “unquestionably’ female by the novel’s end) close the door on “Frank” and start again.
There is no indication at the novel’s close that Frances will continue to identify in part with masculinity, but instead appears to reject it and embrace h/re “femaleness” as a “natural” inescapable fact. In order to (re)construct sex/gender as “natural,” it is imperative that one engages in sell gender affirming rituals. Throughout the novel, Frank performs rituals, similar to religious rites, that s/he has constructed in order to affirm h/re identity: “l held my crotch, closed my eyes and repeated my secret catechisms.
I could recite them automatically, but tried to think of what they meant as I repeated them… They still make me shiver whenever say them, automatic or not” (Banks 157). Franks ritualistic behavior can be seen to illuminate the ritual or formative aspect of a sex/gender system, whereby one must “come to believe [in on?s “assumed” gender] and… Perform in the mode of belief’ (Butler Gender 192). Franks ability to “automatically’ recite h/re “secret catechisms” can be equated with the “naturalization” of sex/gender and its uncontested existence as “truth. In order to clarify the formative aspects f sex/gender, Butler argues: [B]cause gender is not a fact, the various acts Of gender create the idea Of gender, and without those acts, there would be no gender at all. Gender is, thus, a construction that regularly conceals its genesis; the tacit collective agreement to perform, produce, and sustain discrete and polar genders as cultural fictions is obscured by the credibility of those productions… The construction ‘compels’ our belief in its necessity and naturalness. Gender 190) Butler shows how the constant repetition or “ritual” performance of sex/gender creates the illusion of stable sex/gender densities. Frank assumes a masculine gender identity, but constantly struggles to reaffirm it by creating rituals to suit a body that contests the possibility of becoming the “ideal” male figure. The subtlest repetitions are reaffirming: In the bathroom, after a pips, I went through my daily washing ritual. First I had my shower… [then after] a brisk rub down with a face-cloth and then a towel, I trimmed my nails… Brushed my teeth thoroughly… Next the shave… The shave follows a definite and predetermined pattern; I take the same number of strokes of the same length in the same sequence each morning. Banks 51-52) This quotation exemplifies a daily adherence to routine and social practice. Sex and gender are reaffirmed in the same way; however, affirmation and reaffirmation are fruitless in a system that is arbitrary. Individuals circulate around the anxiety of striving to sustain impossible norms, and therefore must constantly constitute themselves as “credible” representatives.
Butler argues that, fundamentally, gender is a binary system merely based on a binary “male/female” sex system -? the two are inextricably linked. Any discourse around gender is already “sexed” and any discourse around sex is already “gendered. The western world has built itself on the anatomical and philosophical surety of “male” and “female,” and boldly wields the metaphysical measuring stick of power and knowledge in order to establish these categories as foundational and original. Butler quotes Mary Douglas in regards to the human body: “[T]he body is a model that can stand for any bounded system.
Its boundaries can represent any boundaries which are threatened and precarious” (Gender 180). The body becomes the site Of political struggle as it strains under the weight of socio- cultural pressure to conform to “naturalized” ways of knowing and being. Butler argues that it is repetition that can either affirm or deny the “natural. ” She suggests that “the subject is not determined by the rules through which it is generated because signification is not a founding act, but rather a regulated process of repetition that both conceals itself and enforces its rules precisely through the production of substantiating effects” (Gender 198).
Therefore, the process of repetition, either discursive or physical, has the effect of naturalization and empowerment. In the novel, Frank engages in ritual sacrifice to create a boundary between the mainland and the island that s/he inhabits. It is h/re routine to attach various parts (mainly heads) of various creatures to h/re “Sacrifice Poles. ” To Frank, the Poles are symbolic of a “warning system and deterrent all rolled into one… [or a] clenched and threatening fist” (Banks 5).
Mary Douglas suggests that “separating, purifying, demarcating and punishing transgressions have as their main function to impose system on an inherently untidy experience” (CTD. In Butler, Gender 178). In other words, both repetition and the exaggeration and enforcement of arbitrary boundaries are necessary to create the “natural. For centuries, female bodies have been described in terms of male bodies, if not as male bodies. Perhaps the most common link between the evolving descriptions and characterizations of the female body is that it has been/is lacking the component parts that would make it complete or human, or more bluntly, male.
Thomas Liqueur cites the work of Galen, a second century anatomist, wherein women’s reproductive organs are described as lacking proper placement and formation due to a lack of vital heat: “Now just as mankind is the most perfect of all animals, so within mankind the man is more perfect Han the woman, and the reason for his perfection is his excess of heat, for heat is Nature’s primary instrument” (CTD. In Liqueur 28). In this regard, women lacked the necessary “vital heat’ during the gestation period to produce a fully formed male: ‘those that have the strictest searchers been, / Find women are but men turned outside in” (CTD. N Liqueur 4). According to Liqueur, the “one-sex model,” or the idea that the male body constituted the body and gender differences Were the result of cultural politics and/or philosophy, permeated Western European ideology from around the 2nd entry to the 18th century. Gradually, the popular model shifted to one where women were recognized as fundamentally different creatures, not only physically but “in every conceivable aspect of body… Soul… And moral[itty]” (5).
The illumination of these perceived differences showed the human male and female species as being in contrast to each other D stark opposites with little means of understanding one another and having little or nothing in common. Also, this opposition sets up woman as Other and essentially continues to define men as the original, natural or “true” sex, a stance that is chaotically iced through Frank. Ironically, Franks female body is a constant threat to h/re masculine identity. Frank describes this tension: “[Angus] started dosing me with male hormones, and has been ever since [the accident]… Hat Vive always thought was the stump of a penis is really an enlarged clitoris… He has kept tampons for the last few years, just in case my own hormones got the better of the ones he had been pumping me with” (Banks 240). It seems that in order to secure Franks “ascent” to “manhood,” Franks father, Angus Calculate, encouraged the loathing of all things feminine or “female. It was imperative for Frank to develop an unwavering, fixed notion of masculine identity, one that perceived the feminine as opposite and distant.
Frank is completely isolated from any female influence except Mrs.. Clamp who cleans the house and delivers groceries once a week. Frank describes her as “ancient, and sexless the way the very old and the very young are,” and goes on to suggest, however, that “she’s still been a woman” (51 Amongst h/re ranting Of disgust, Frank exposes the prescribed limits Of sexuality. Within a heterogeneity paradigm, the young procreative feminine body is the epitome of sexuality, and corresponds directly to young masculine virility.
Within heterosexuality, youth is touted as essential to sexuality; therefore, as bodies age, they appear to lose their masculine and feminine qualities. This suggests that these categories are manufactured to reaffirm heterosexual procreative norms. Masculinity and femininity become categorical voids when used to describe elderly bodies. The sex/gender system is inadequate and exclusionary in this context. Frank does not possess an elderly body, but s/he is relegated to a state of comparative uselessness by retire of possessing a body that does not fit procreative norms.
Women repulse Frank for two reasons: because women exist in opposition to men, and are therefore the enemy of Franks masculinity, and because women are representative of procreativity and a sexuality that are seemingly out of reach or largely unknown to F-rank. Ironically, Frank takes an aggressive “sexist” stance. Frank unwittingly exposes the fragility of sex/gender categories by characterizing h/re older brother, Eric, as “weak and sensitive,” or stereotypically feminine. Eric plans to become a doctor but experiences a aromatizing incident while helping out at a teaching hospital in Glasgow.
He helped care for babies and young children who were severely deformed and disabled. Frank reveals the nature of Erie’s “unpleasant experience” on a hot July evening: The child he was attending to was more or less a vegetable… [Eric] saw something, something like a movement, barely visible on the shaved head of the slightly smiling child… He bent closer to the skull of the child… [and] looked round the edge of the metal skull-cap the child wore, thought he saw something under it, and lifted it easily from the head of the infant…
Hiss had got into the ward… [and] had got underneath the stainless steel of the child’s skull cap and deposited eggs there… What Eric saw… Was the slowly writhing nest of fat maggots, swimming in their combined digestive juices as they consumed the brain of the child. (Banks 185-188) Shortly after Erie’s “unpleasant experience,” he began drain king and starting fights, and eventually quit school. He also began trying to force children to eat handfuls of worms and maggots, and started setting fire to dogs.
In response to Erie’s “breakdown,” Frank suggests that Eric is weak, much like a woman: Whatever assassinated in Eric then, it was a weakness, a fundamental flaw that a real man should not have had. Women, I know from watching hundreds-?maybe thousands-?of films and television programmer, cannot withstand really major things happening to them; they get raped, or their loved one dies, and they go to pieces, go crazy and commit suicide, or just pine away until they die. Of course, I realize that not all of them will react that way, but obviously it’s the rule, and the ones who don’t obey it are in the minority’. Banks 195) Franks reflections are “chaotically’ ironic. S/he suggests that Eric is not a “real an” because he could not cope with a traumatic experience. Franks characterization Of Eric and Of women illustrates the impossibility Of the categories of “men” and “women” as separate, distinct entities. In order for Eric to be a “real man,” he must be emotionless and impenetrable. To Frank, Erie’s “gender performance” is the antithesis of the masculine ideal. However, the irony lays in the fact that Franks “gender performance,” in h/re own terms, is the antithesis of the feminine ideal.
In part, Frank unconsciously subverts the notion that biology “signals” gender. Butler argues that sex and ender are conflated because there are only two “choices” available, and that gender is always already “sexed. ” Frank and Eric exemplify, however, that within the dichotomous construct of sex/gender, genitalia and gender are not necessarily indicative of one another, and that the constructs of male and female do not account for slippages. If Erie’s behavior demotes him from “manhood,” can he redeem his identity, and if not, who can he be now?
If he is not a “real man,” is he a woman? It becomes clear that sex/gender categories are “monstrous” in that they claim fixity, but offer only ambiguity. The Monstrous Body David E. Mushiest suggests that “[t]he Monster is not ‘in itself monstrous, [and] there is no inherent monstrousness; monstrousness is that which is prescribed and proscribed by the facile categorizing of the social and cultural order” (59). The body is the site of social, cultural, and political construction. Bodies are constructed, inscribed, described, raced, gendered, appropriated, desired, and loathed.
It does not seem surprising then that in a heterogeneity society, some bodies are monstrous figures, or at least misrepresented as such. Monsters are socio-cultural manifestations of anxiety, and therefore must be scorned and/or eradicated. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen argues that “[t]his anxiety manifests itself symptomatically as a cultural fascination with monsters-?a fixation that is born of the twin desire to name that which is difficult to apprehend and to domesticate (and therefore disembowel) that which threatens” (viii).
Cohen suggests that society harnesses its anxiety within the figure Of the monster – names it as such and therefore creates an identity that is seemingly distinct from “self,” or the perception of normalcy. Once society harnesses its anxieties in the figure of a monster, a being separate from the societal “normal self,” it can act upon the monster and attempt to destroy it. Destruction of the monster, however, is problematic.