How the Characters of Claudia and Jasper comply with traditional Gender Roles in "Moon Tiger" by Penelope Lively

Term Paper, 2014

9 Pages, Grade: 1,3



1 Introduction

2 How Claudia complies with traditional gender roles

3 Jasper’s compliance with traditional gender roles

4 Conclusion

5 Works Cited

1 Introduction

The understanding of a “traditional” gender role depends on innumerable things. For instance it is important to know which time period is applied because of historical, cultural and social happenings in that time. Additionally, the specific content of traditional gender roles “is defined differently in every culture, [but] gender roles usually contain general characteristics. These characteristics include the expectation of certain personality traits (women are nurturant and dependent; men are assertive and independent), social roles (men are fathers and breadwinners; women are wives and mothers), and social positions or occupations (men are soldiers and politicians; women are nurses and volunteers)” (Richmond-Abbott 5). Therefore, traditional gender roles are based on standards or norms created by society. The novel Moon Tiger written by Penelope Lively takes place in the century of the Great War and World War II. In that time, the two sociologists Talcott Parsons and Robert Freed Bales established the theory that gender roles of men and women are divided. The distinction is that the male gender role represents the function as a bread-winner and worker, whereas the female gender role is personified by child-rearing tasks and domestic works. They suggest that traditional women and men are supposed to do certain things, and act in a particular manner. “The male adult will play the role of instrumental leader and the female adult will play the role of expressive leader” (Parsons & Bales 315). The term expressive refers to internal problems and rather emotions. In comparison, the term instrumental refers to external conditions including economy, politics, and occupation. For thinking traditional, it is best going back to the Bible. In the issue of marriage and family, women are taught to respect and obey their husbands, be dependent on them and have children (New International Version, Gen. 3.16). Besides, a woman shall get married before having sex and bear a child (1 Cor. 7.9). Referenced to that, traditional thinking about gender roles also includes religion as well as the Bible for the sake of suggested and expected behavior patterns. When analyzing traditional gender roles in Penelope Lively’s Moon Tiger it becomes obvious that Jasper corresponds with traditional gender roles, and Claudia is a character who does not comply with that. In the latter case, reasons for this purpose are nonconformities in the traditional thinking by means of the bible, the theory of Parsons and Bales, or general expected characteristic traits. In the following the term “traditional gender roles” or “traditional” refers to the already mentioned definitions.

2 How Claudia complies with traditional gender roles

Concerning the theory of Parsons and Bales, they conclude their theory with the assumption that traditional female gender roles contain activities like nurturing, child-rearing, and housekeeping. These activities “are internal in nature and concern the maintenance of warmth in group relations (emotional concern)” (Parsons & Bales 263). Furthermore, in accordance with their theory, it is the task of the men to fulfill the instrumental functions, like having a job and earn money. Claudia incarnates an independent and enterprising woman who works as a reporter during the Cairo campaign in World War II, and after that “was going to be a war correspondent” (Moon Tiger, 17). Additionally, she “reveals herself, and is revealed, as clever, outspoken, uncomfortable.” (Moon Tiger v). Due to the fact that Claudia has an occupation and fulfills some traits and behaviors, females according to Richmond-Abbott’s studies, traditionally do not have, she differs from being a traditional woman in this case. On the one hand, she does not comply with Parsons and Bales expressive female gender role, on the other hand there are some coincidences with those of male’s instrumental gender role. In conclusion, Claudia does not meet the expectations of general gender role characteristics, and fits in the role of an instrumental leader.

Going back to the Bible, it says: “But if they have not self-control let them get married; for married life is better than the burning of desire” (1.Kor. 7.9). This signifies traditional, religious thinking, and represents sexual abstinence prior a marriage. Claudia does have sex with Jasper without being married. “in terms of my life, he was my lover and the father of my only child” (Moon Tiger 9). Not being married, especially with having a child, is far away “from the “traditional” family consisting of two adults in a first marriage who have several children, with a working father and a homemaker mother” (Richmond-Abbott 181). Claudia Hampton is “certainly not suggesting [they] get married” (Moon Tiger 11). Consequently, she has an illegitimate daughter and does not comply with traditional gender roles in the issue of marriage and family. Moreover, she does not conform to what the Bible says.

In terms of Richmond-Abbott’s content of traditional gender roles, the characteristics “include the expectation of certain personality traits (Women are nurturers and dependent…women are wives and mothers)” (Richmond-Abbott 5). Undoubtedly, after knowing that Claudia is pregnant, she wants to have the child. However, she fails as a mother “I was not a good mother in any conventional sense. Babies I find faintly repellent; young children are boring and distracting” (Moon Tiger 42). Obviously, she does not take care of her daughter or acts self-sacrificing. Claudia abandons Lisa in many ways. “Lisa spent most of her childhood with one grandmother or the other” (Moon Tiger 12). Lisa’s custody is shared by the grandmothers. Due to this, Claudia owns more time for herself to travel abroad, for instance in the interest of her profession as a historian. As a result, she is characterized as independent and an uncaring mother, and again does not meet particular personality traits and expectations in the content of traditional gender roles.

Within another meaning of the Bible, the role of women mainly ought to be inferior of men, obey their husbands and be dependent on them. “Training the younger women to have love for their husbands and children, to be wise in mind, clean in heart, kind; working in their houses, living under the authority of their husbands; so that no evil may be said of the word of God” (Tit. 2.5). According to this biblical quotation, the responsibility and duty of women especially is to support and love their men. When analyzing the relationship between Claudia and Jasper, it becomes obvious that her emotions for Jasper are not strong enough to love him. By reason of her abnormal feelings towards her brother Gordon, “Jasper never dominated my life. He was significant, but that is another matter” (Moon Tiger 12). “Even then, you note, my feelings towards Gordon predominate” (Moon Tiger 7). Claudia reveals that Jasper is not what he should be for her considering their common child Lisa. “Jasper and Claudia did not get married because they didn’t love each other enough, Claudia says. You have to love someone very much before you marry them” (Moon Tiger 53). On account of this, she defends herself for being a mother who prefers to be alone, without a husband. As already mentioned, Claudia is the person who does not want to get married to Jasper. If she would negotiate in accordance with the Bible she would assist and love Jasper. Given that her behavior is not like that, Claudia’s way of acting prevents being a traditional woman. Claudia Hampton therefore does not comply with traditional gender roles in terms of the made definitions.

3 Jasper’s compliance with traditional gender roles

In the middle of the 20 twentieth century, Parsons and Bales characterized the fathering role in terms of instrumental functions such as providing income, protecting the family, and having discipline. “When the husband-father takes on the instrumental role, he helps to maintain the basic social and physical integrity of the family, by providing food and shelter and linking the family to the world outside the home” (Lindsey 5). After Jasper comes to know from Claudia’s pregnancy, he fits into the raster of Parsons and Bales theory. He will be a father and takes on the instrumental role, although the two of them will not be wedded. Claudia is the person who does not want to marry. “I’m certainly not suggesting we get married.’ ‘No says Jasper, ‘I don’t imagine you are. But naturally I shall wish to play my part.’” (Moon Tiger 11). Obviously, Jasper is poised for his father role and furthermore he achieves the instrumental functions of Parsons and Bales. For instance “he is a clever successful entrepreneur” (Moon Tiger 9), thus he can provide income and food. To repeat that he is ready to play his part as a father, he is able to protect, provide shelter, and help the family in parts of basic social, and physical integrity. Jasper is a character who complies with traditional gender roles concerning Parsons and Bales theory of an instrumental leader.

Moreover, in the theory of Parsons and Bales it is argued that “there is less disruption and competition, thus more harmony and stability, when spouses assume complimentary and specialized roles” (Lindsey 5). Incidentally, when discrepancy from expressive and instrumental roles occurs or when the roles overlap to a great extent, the relationship between men and women “is propelled into a temporary state of disequilibrium” (Lindsey 5). As already discussed, Claudia does not comply with her traditional gender role concerning the expressive term. Hence, it is hard for Jasper to deal with Claudia. He often argues with her because of behavior. “The sex was prolonged and memorable; the quarrel also”. “Opinionated and dogmatic as ever, said Jasper, the trouble with you is you have no flexibility of mind” (Moon Tiger 49). Obviously, Jasper wants Claudia more to obey and respect him. “Men like Jasper do not really favor women like me; they are fascinated by them and obliged to associate with them, but their real taste is for compliance and subservience. Jasper should have had a Sylvia” (Moon Tiger 151). Considering Jaspers argumentation, his personality traits and the conformance with being an instrumental leader comply with traditional gender roles.

In another term of the Bible it is said that men shall treat women with respect and dignify them. “Giving honor to the woman who is the feebler vessel, but who has an equal part in the heritage of the grace of life; so that you may not be kept from prayer” (1 Pet. 3.7). As much as to say it comes with the territory of men to arrange a common life with women in a respectable way. While women, according to the bible, are the weaker gender it is up to the man to comply with theirs role. In the story of Moon Tiger, Jasper accomplishes that by treating her in a kind and respectable way. “He smiles – a charming, deeply, sexual smile. ‘Well…I must say, darling, the one thing I don’t see you cut out for is motherhood. But I daresay you’ll display your usual power of adaption” (Moon Tiger 11). Jasper encourages her although he is aware of that she will not be a perfect mother. By this, he indicates confidence in her and that he respects whatever she is willing to do in the future. Finally, Jasper is a character who acts like a traditional man does, in matters of the given Bible passage.


Excerpt out of 9 pages


How the Characters of Claudia and Jasper comply with traditional Gender Roles in "Moon Tiger" by Penelope Lively
University of Tubingen  (Neuphilologische Fakultät)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
Moon Tiger, Penelope Lively, Gender roles, traditional, characters
Quote paper
Janine Bergmeir (Author), 2014, How the Characters of Claudia and Jasper comply with traditional Gender Roles in "Moon Tiger" by Penelope Lively, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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