The Portrayal of Male Characters

Topics: Roald Dahl

Dahl conceals women as the power behind and uses their femininity to give power to James who tries hard to gain power while James as a poor boy is ‘slaving away at the chopping block (7). Dahl continues portraying his aunts as cruel and aggressive.

The heat was terrible. He was sweating all over. His arm was aching. The chopper was a large blunt thing far too heavy for a small boy to use. And as he worked, James began thinking about all the other children in the world and what they might be doing at this moment.

Some would be riding tricycles in their gardens. Some would be walking in cool woods and picking bunches of wildflowers. And all the little friends whom he used to know would be down by the seaside, playing in the wet sand and splashing around in the water. . .(7)

James remains naive and lonely while Spike and Sponge are certainly heartless.

Why, you lazy good-for-nothing brute!’ Aunt Spiker shouted.

‘Beat him!’ cried Aunt Sponge.

‘I certainly will!’ Aunt Spiker snapped (4).

Heroism, intelligence, ambition, and initiative to solve problems is the male characteristic. Passiveness referred to female characters that are followers, insecure, or perhaps just let things happen to them in the story without taking action. Besides, in the area of men’s and women’s qualities, there are more of an effort to indicate that females and males are capable of having different feelings, and men that are the only ones that can solve problems and be creative.

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Overall, females are portrayed in passive states, and males are inactive states. Female characters confirm how women are seen in family and society. There are no real role models for girls and boys. Dahl’s children’s books promote misogyny or sexism instead of making children aware of inequities, along with aggression them recognize their complete potential despite their sex. No doubt, ‘literature plays a major part in children’s lives as a motivator and role model. Books act as indirect experiences for children. Therefore, it is important that they can identify with different life situations and role models (13).

Dahl does not describe women as powerful in the way men are, but he repeatedly points out the power they have over men by expending their femininity and sexuality; in fact, this is how James’s aunts are finally eliminated from the story, as she lures them into misery. As it turns out, he lets anything stand in a way when it comes to reaching his goal. To this end, his male characters have infinite and innate power which is described, for example, when James is in trouble his aunts are portrayed as cruel characters who ‘never called him by his real name, but always referred to him as ‘you disgusting little beast’ or ‘you filthy nuisance’ or ‘you miserable creature,’ and they certainly never gave him any toys to play with or any picture books to look at. His room was as bare as a prison cell'(2-8). Instead, Dahl’s effort is put to conceal his weakness but showing female characters as real villains which reminds us of witches.

To Mumme and Fernald children acquire “how to interpret and predict the behaviors of other people and to relate this understanding in their behavior” (221). Therefore character depiction plays a powerful role, and stereotypes are often acquired indirectly from such exposure.

Picture books and Portrayal of Both Male and Female Characters

“Picture books play an important role in early sex role socialization because they are a vehicle for the presentation of societal values to the young child. Through books, children learn about the world outside their immediate environment. They learn about what boys and girls do, say, and feel. They learn about what is wrong, and they learn what is expected of children their age. In addition, books provide children with role models – images of what they can and should be when they grow up” (Weitzman 1126).

Gender stereotypes are defined as “assumptions made about the characteristics of each gender, such as physical appearance, physical abilities, attitudes, interests, or occupations” (Gooden & Gooden 90). Children have imposed gender role stereotypes through socialization. Children’s books function as a socializing tool to pass on values from one generation to the next, and in turn, are a strong purveyor of gender role stereotypes. Books are often the primary source for the presentation of societal values and have negative effects on children’s perception of gender roles. As such, the present section examines the portrayal of female and male images in children’s picture books, with specific emphasis on predominant gender behaviors presented.

As noticed, females are largely underrepresented in Dahl’s book titles, central roles, and illustrations. When females appeared in his books, their characterization reinforced traditional gender roles and gender stereotypes, such as passivity and occupational restrictions. Since his character prevalence and character roles and activities are promoting gender inequality and discrimination. In Roald Dahl’s books, males in both content and visual format appeared more than females and females.

The presence of sexism in terms of the ratio of female to male illustrations and characters in the book, as well as the sex of the main character and sex-role portrayal. It’s unquestionable that while the number of female to male characters has improved but role portrayal still has not changed.

Through visual format analysis, it has found significant differences in the representation of male and female characters in Dahl’s children’s picture books indicating that although female characters are still underrepresented, especially as central characters, and are given a smaller variety of roles than male characters. Perhaps the portrayal of characters indicates that there has been a change toward sex equality in several characters and those girls and boys are shown in nontraditional roles and with nontraditional characteristics. It may conclude that a step toward equity had advanced based on the increase in females represented as main characters but gender stereotypes are still significant in visual formats. And even female representation of the main character equally paralleled that of males, but females appeared alone more often than males in the illustrations. Although there has been an emergence of nontraditional characteristics and nontraditional roles portrayed by females and males, males still dominated in both content and visual format. Still, in both content and visual format, books have fewer visible female characters than before but more are gender-stereotyped. It also represents the level of conflict over gender roles. Female characters are still underrepresented; female characters are showcased as nurturing and indoor more than male characters, and occupations are gender-stereotyped.

Beyond character prevalence and character roles and activities, there have been gender stereotypes within Dahl’s books. Male characters are represented to be more frequently than females both as child helpers and as the recipients of help.

Dahl’s books are not portraying gender-neutral animal characters. For example, solitary and non-interacting characters are less likely to receive male gender labels. Further, stereotyping is gender differences in emotional language in Dahl’s books are outward. It would be a relationship between gender and the number of emotional words associated with each character, and that male characters would more often be associated with emotional words considered appropriate for males, while female characters would more often be associated with emotional words considered appropriate for females. The analysis of character prevalence indicated that males had a higher representation in titles, pictures, and central roles. However, males and females were associated with equal amounts of emotional language, and no differences are found in the types of emotional words associated with males and females. Females are stereotyped as relatively absent or inept characters. Perhaps Dahl consciously or unconsciously resorts to subtle sexism. More often, male characters are given more dominant roles, using strong leadership abilities and displaying the need for strength and a necessity to suppress emotion. This comes from the stereotype that men must be strong, and Dahl’s books enforce this idea to prevent their boy from being praised as a “sissy”.

Despite the male characters, female characters have inclinations to be mild-mannered, docile, and worst of all: damsels in distress such as Miss Honey. The female characters are frequently marginal, lacking dimension, and suppressed under the roles of the boys. This therefore subconsciously teaches readers that males undeniably are the more important roles in society.

More notable Dahl’s books address this dispute and break some of the barriers to gender roles. They are representative of society’s present ideas of what girls should enjoy.

In Dahl’s books, characters are not content with their life the way it is and the companies of friends that are female mostly make effort to make them happy. Simply Dahl turns boys into perfect boys; finally, they are strong and independent. To add, poise and good manners are not pushed away from his character as well.

Times have changed and it is supposed not to see any form of gender roles but it has modern gender roles. Dahl’s depiction of female and male characters demoralizes femininity, and society is lending wings to embrace a wider definition of gender.

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The Portrayal of Male Characters. (2022, May 14). Retrieved from

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