“No, I am not a girl,” he answered; “– although,” he added, changing his tone, and casting himself on the ground at her feet, “I have given you too good reason to call me one.”
Throughout the reading of King Lear and many other adaptions of text, we seem to constantly examine the importance of gender roles in literature. One extreme example of classic Victorian social roles is demonstrated in the short story, “The Day Boy and The Night Girl.” One thing I found most interesting about this short story was McDonald’s ability to push classic gender identity, as well as make it cohesive between two very different characters. Nycteris blatantly exemplifies the gender expectations of a Victorian women. One of the first lines in the story about Nycteris’s childhood talks about the little education she received. Also she is kept away, constantly supervised, and very innocent. She displays a very submissive, gentle quality. Paralleling this is the role taken by Photogen, who is wild, brave, free, and a great huntsman. However, just when you think you have the story condensed to classic gender roles, McDonald gives it a twist. When the sun fades Photogen’s bravery seems to be dismissed and he takes on a more submissive role. When both charters meet in the garden, Nycteris believes that Photogen is a women, since she’s never seen a man, and he immediately replies “No, I am not a girl,” he answered; “– although,” he added, changing his tone, and casting himself on the ground at her feet, “I have given you too good reason to call me one.” This alludes to the classic idea of a women being frightened, submissive, and fragile. This idea is then quickly changed when Nycteris believes that all women must be brave and men must be cowardly. This is the merging of gender identities that makes the dynamic so interesting between the characters.
When Nycteris and Photogen talk about their love of the day and night, they are both so utterly confused how one could like something so opposite. This conflict is present throughout the whole text and leads to the idea of how relating to other genders could have been an extremely difficult task in the 1800s. Since during more classic periods of history the gender identities were extremely black and white. Comparing classic gender roles to society today, we can see there much more gray area. I think the time period also adds and interesting dynamic when merging the lines between identities. Throughout the text we can see more examples such “the arrogance of all male creatures” displayed by Photogen and Nycteris’s inability to defend herself. Yet, at the very end of the story we can see how the extreme gender differences make them stronger when they are together. A line toward the end of the story states “But while the one grew weaker still, the other had begun to grow stronger.” This is a representation that even though the gender roles are promptly displayed they can work together well as one unite. Do you believe that the extreme display of gender identities makes the story more dynamic or believable? How do gender roles effect your views of each charter? Do you think gender roles are as defined today as they were in earlier time periods?