Literature presents insights into many aspects of life but is also a conveyor of values, naturalising certain ways of understanding ourselves and the world. This is especially true of “The Whole Town’s Sleeping” by Ray Bradbury. Built on the dominant ideologies of the time, the text through its representations, language, and plot constructs what was normal or acceptable behaviour for men and women.
The Whole Town’s Sleeping” reveals a society where women are weak, fragile and vulnerable, They were the victims of violence inflicted by men, and had to constantly be alert and wary, guarding themselves from any possible danger. While it was considered totally safe and normal for men to go out alone at night, women only belonged in the day, and with darkness were expected to lock themselves away from awaiting threats. This brings across the idea that women should always be protected, and that any woman who ventures out without any form of protection is foolish.Order now
Though Lavinia tries as hard as she can to conceal her inferiority, she is still very much a woman, and is thereby vulnerable (“The heat pulsed under your dress and along your legs with a stealthy sense of invasion. “). The story endorses the idea that women who do not take proper care of themselves, and try to be independent are to blame for whatever happens to them. The blame is shifted on to the victim, and little fault is attached to the male who commits the crime.
The story shows that it was foolish for Lavinia to try to be strong and independent and that she can never deny the fact that she is woman, and thereby weak and vulnerable. She can never be as strong or powerful as a man and is destined to the weaker subservient position. Lavinia, despite her strong appearance, gets frightened (Lavonia felt her heart going loudly within her and she was cold too) when she sees the dead body, and can only try to forget it.
The story is constructed in such a way that as it progresses, Lavinia is confronted with even more danger, and her apparent confidence is gradually stripped away. Though she starts of “just not afraid” it is soon turned into panic and she admits her inferiority (“If I get home safe I will never go out alone, I was a fool”), conforming to the patriarchal ideology on the innate weakness of women. Men on the other hand are constructed as menaces, which prey on pretty, unmarried maidens for their own pleasure.
They are sly (Behind her, in the black living-room, someone cleared his throat. ), unsuspected (Eliza Ramsell has disappeared) and gruesome (strangled – four of them their tongues sticking out of their mouths). Agreeing to the essentialist assumptions that all men are potentially violent and naturally evil. The story also presented the idea that all men are distrustful (not one of the three male characters in the story was trusted). Thought Officer Kennedy was a policemen, Lavinia did not trust him (I won”t walk the ravine with any man.
Tom Dillon too was not trusted, and thought he was their friend Helen still suspected him to be “the Lonely One”. Though the three maidens did not say the man at the drugstore to be distrustful, he was careless to give away Lavinia’s address, which put her in a lot of potential danger. Ray Bradbury’s construction of small town society, and particularly the gender roles found within, showcases the opinions of both Bradbury and the society ot the time. This presentation of opinion is most likely not intentional and simply a reflection of the 1950’s society attitude towards gender roles.