The representation of Gender roles is an issue expressed in “The Penguin best Australian Short stories” collection. The issues of gender are expressed through gender inequality, stereotypical gender roles, the economic basis of marriage, and the expectations of women. These beliefs and their changes as the stories became more modern are presented through the stories, ‘Monsieur Caloche’, “The Lottery’ and “A Gentleman’s Agreement.
The representation of gender inequality is expressed in the story Monsieur Caloche (1889) through a satirical point of view. This story represents the workplace and throughout most of the story the readers notice that there was a deficiency of female characters. The irony is that at the end of the stories the readers find out that the main character ‘Monsieur Caloche’ is in fact a young girl, who had lost her beauty after suffering from smallpox, and resorted to looking for a job as a boy. “Hiding the loss which had deprived her of all the glory of her sex. Beauty is more than skin deep, however Monsieur Caloche had not known it. This is an example of gender inequality in Australia during the 19th century.
The story ‘The Lottery” (1943) represents the stereotypes of the gender roles through the view of Ted, the husband. Ted had strong opinion about what men and women were supposed to act and about what a ‘good’ husband and a ‘good’ wife did. “All she had to do was stay at home and look after the children…. he had a vision of his washed cream trousers, the children’s neatness, the tidy house. That was being a good wife…and he has always been a good husband, always brought his money home, never looked at another woman.” This shows that the genders were stereotyped in Australia in the 1940’s.
Another gender issue brought up in the story “The Lottery” is the economic basis of marriage. The man was the economic base of the family and everyone in the story assumes that a wife’s money is her husband’s to dispose of. “He could do almost anything he could think of with five thousand pounds.” This shows that Ted was already assuming the money was his, as does his neighbour who had money problems. Ted says confidently to him “I won’t see you stuck, old man.”
The Lottery also brings up an issue of expectations and changes of the women in the 1940’s. Ted had expected Grace to call him to tell him the news of the Lottery and to tell him about everything she does. The readers notice that he was more critical of Grace than affectionate. He was more concerned about where Grace got the money to buy the Lottery ticket. It seems that she had no right to spend his money on something other than the basic needs of the family. “He must’ve been paying her too much for housekeeping.” This shows that there were high expectations of Australian women during that period of time from their husbands. The women were expected to do as if the husband owned them and their sole role was to look after the family. At end of “the Lottery” we learn that Grace as a woman was able to take a stand for what she wanted and to go against her husband, which shows that the gender roles were changing.
The gender roles in the Australian short stories seem to shift as they become more recent. In the later story, ‘A Gentleman’s Agreement (1974) “, there were no strong male characters at all. The mother was able to look after the family and was able to outsmart a man in order to do so. She tricks the buyer of the farm into a Gentleman’s Agreement and when questioned by her children she says confidently, “Well he can come on his land at any time, there is nothing in the gentleman’s agreement that says he cant”. This shows dramatic change of the female role in comparison to the earlier story “Monsieur Caloche’ which presents women as the oppressed. The mother in the “Gentleman’s Agreement” was dominant. However she still followed the expectations of looking after her family, yet she was also able to support her family economically.
The Variation of gender roles over time can be seen to the representations of women in the stories, “Monsieur Caloche”, “the lottery” and “A gentleman’s Agreement.” These variations can be seen through the presentation of gender inequality, stereotypical gender roles, the economic basis of a family and the expectations of women. The change in female characters from the oppressed in ‘Monsieur Caloche’ to the more dominant in “A gentleman’s agreement’ explains that there was a variation of gender roles for the characters, especially female characters, who not only fulfil their own roles but the roles of a stereotypical male as the stories became more modern.