The Masculine World of Jennifer Johnston
In a decade that has seen ‘women’s fiction’ develop as a full-fledged genre, portraying misunderstood and brutalised females struggling against the unjust dominance of males, it is indeed surprising to encounter a woman novelist whose fiction concentrates so exclusively on a value structure supported by patriotism, bravery, loyalty and honour, which focuses specifically on such activities as hunting, drinking, making war and selling property, which examines compulsively the social and religious rites of passage that are the anachronistic inheritance of the modern male. Not that there is not a long and venerable history of women writing about men moving in the world they control — one thinks of Jane Austen, George Eliot, the Brontë sisters, even Virginia Woolf — but that of late women have become exhaustively (some might say neurotically) concerned with themselves. Jennifer Johnston’s five novels, The Captains and the Kings (1972), The Gates (1973), How Many Miles to Babylon? (1974), Shadows on our Skin (1977), and The Old Jest (1979),1 all focus on the effort to survive the peculiarly masculine claims of worldly responsibilities and each defines the feminine in terms of the masculine.
KeywordsIncome Beach Smoke Hunt Trench
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