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The Tilted World Character Analysis Essay

Washing Away Gender Roles and Expectations In an interview with William Boyle, Beth Ann Fennelly, co- author of The Tilted World, stated, “As much of a natural disaster as a flood is, falling in love is also a natural disaster. Or it can be” (fictionwritersreview. com). The Tilted World, a novel about the great flood of Mississippi, incorporates themes of love and adventure to capture a historical event that impacted the lives of individuals across the state. During the 20th century, it was clear that men and women played very different roles in society.

However, authors Tom Franklin and Fennelly use two nique characters to challenge these stereotypes. Ted Ingersoll and Dixie Clay Holliver defy typical gender expectations throughout the text by their actions, words, and thoughts. In The Tilted World, Ingersoll and Dixie Clay resist gender conventions and play ground-breaking and inspiring roles throughout the novel. Although 20th century men were confined to the rigid standards of masculinity, Ingersoll presents himself as a multifaceted character.

While playing a strong male lead in the novel, he bravely defies gender conventions during a strict time period by allowing his emotions to become a large part of his ole. In one example, Mrs. Allen teases Ingersoll for changing the child’s diddie by commenting, “This big silly man didn’t get you near secure enough” (43). Immediately, Ingersoll grows defensive as a result of her backhanded comment. , because he does not want to be seen as incapable of taking care of this child. Through his parental-like instincts with the child, we are able to gain a different perspective on the rugged solider.

Additionally, Franklin and Fennelly depict men as men are also depicted as sexual and direct beings. Readers are able to see the difference between Ingersoll and the other male characters n this novel through a scene at McMahon’s diner. When a flirtatious waiter serves the men food, Ham and Jesse are quick to act inappropriately. While Jesse fondles the waitress, Ham inappropriately states, “I like a dumper with a little motion to it” (69). In contrast, Ingersoll remains silent and isolated from the situation.

From this, we can clearly see that he holds an uncommon mindset. Through this novel, the audience is able to witness Ingersoll take bold steps towards difference in this time period. A woman’s role throughout society has often been depicted as insignificant compared to the role of a man. In The Tilted World, Dixie Clay challenges this societal perception by displaying the numerous complexities possessed by women. This strong female character portrays a deep sense of strength and independence throughout her life.

In one example, Dixie Clay arrives at a roller mill and feels completely out of place as the women around her stare with judgement in their eyes and begin to whisper aimlessly. This foreignness that Dixie feels is confirmed when the authors write that “she felt like a child whose indulgent mother lets her sit with the grown-ups through she stifles their gossip” (23). Because of the fact that Dixie Clay is married to Jesse, a bootlegger, many of the women show hatred towards her different lifestyle. However, Dixie Clay marches to the beat of her own drum and ignores the bitter remarks of the women.

In addition, Dixie Clay’s power throughout the novel is a marvel to the audience. In one scene where she argues with a state representative named Ron Shap about alcohol prices, the audience can clearly see her confidence. When the man patronizes her about lowering her prices by saying, “Buy yourself a hair bob for those pretty curls,” Dixie Clay simply eplies, “Four-fifty a bottle, and if you won’t buy it, maybe Wright Thomas”-the other candidate- “will” (131). From these instances, it is clear to see that Dixie Clay is a trailblazer through her actions and words.

In the 20th century, most relationships had rigorous roles for each partner involved. Throughout The Tilted World, there is a lack of healthy connection between characters. In addition to each challenging traditional gender roles, Dixie Clay and Ingersoll as a couple defy traditional relationship norms. While Jesse and Dixie Clay had a physically and mentally abusive elationship, Ingersoll is an entirely different consort. For most of her life, Dixie Clay has been forced to protect herself. However, after Ingersoll rescues her from the flood, readers can see an intimate exchange between the two.

It is clear to see that Dixie Clay is slowly learning to love and trust Ingersoll as the authors write, “He’s helping me. He’s helping me, and I’m allowing him to” (262). This mutual reliance on one another is the basis of a healthy relationship. While she is clearly benefitting from the relationship, Ingersoll is impacted by the presence of Dixie Clay in his life as well. In the novel, we see that Ingersoll has felt unattached and temporary throughout his entire life. After meeting Dixie Clay, it is obvious that he begins to change his outlook on life.

In a switch of perspective, Ingersoll reflects on his time in the jail cell and his feelings of invisibility. As the authors write, “Until he found Willy and Dixie Clay, he realized, that’s all his whole life had been,” readers can clearly see the dependence that the two individuals have on one another (254). Although many relationships often feature a dominant partner, Ingersoll and Dixie Clay work together in armonious manner. Although Ingersoll and Dixie Clay challenge the traditional stereotypes that women and men play in this time period, most of the individuals in The Tilted World follow their particular gender roles.

In this novel, Franklin and Fennelly portray men as detached and violent while women are required to be silent and obedient. The additional male characters in The Tilted World strictly follow the regulations that are expected from society. For example, agent Ham Johnson, Ingersoll’s partner, portrays a stereotypical male throughout a scene where the men discover deserted baby after a family is murdered. While Ingersoll is quick to retrieve the baby, Ham is hesitant and annoyed by the idea, aggressively stating that the baby is “not [their] problem” and that they “sure as hell can’t take it” (20).

Another male who follows the typical male cliche is Jesse Holliver, Dixie Clay’s husband. From the start, Jesse is authoritative and unpredictable in his brutish behaviors; he is abusive toward Dixie Clay, and he makes it known that he is the provider for the family. While joking with several men, Jesse states, “I give her anything she wants” (93). Through this statement, we can clearly see that Jesse has overpowering control over Dixie Clay. Additionally, many of the women in this novel follow the particular roles that society demands.

Franklin and Fennelly describe a flapper women named Jeanette, for instance, as being “knife-edged” beautiful and compliant, which makes her the ideal partner for many men due to her beauty and compliance (210). The character is described as beautiful and complaint. Readers are able to see her dependence in men when she states “Jesse, now you have to buy me another” when er pearl necklace breaks (215), As one can see, Dixie and Ingersoll act as outsiders in many of the scenes in the novel.

Readers are clearly able to see that Ingersoll and Dixie Clay defy gender conventions throughout the novel. The stereotypical roles expected of the characters in The Tilted Word are just a glimpse into a large issue in society. Although this novel contains content that may seem backward and odd, it is only a shift in the changing roles of men and women. As our future is rapidly evolving, it is important that individuals learn to accept change.

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