Sunday, January 5, 2014
The Role of Gender in "The Bat"
Here's a short essay I wrote for an upcoming blog spot...
The role of gender in The Bat is greatly significant as we consider the impact of female protagonists throughout the narrative. The tone of discontent is resonant as Brenda Hammond realizes she is being exploited by Chief Joel Madden in the exchange of information as an undercover operative for the detective badge she desires. Her romantic involvement with Johnny Sullivan, a member of the group of interest, is being leveraged by Madden to his own benefit in trying to win Brenda’s affections. She is also stressed by having to compromise Richard Garrison and Dr. Coulter, conflicted in betraying their personal trust while pursuing her professional objectives. She compares her situation with others in her department and realizes she is being exploited as a female rather than being able to rely on sheer ability to succeed in the investigation.
Holly Westlake rejects the gender norms in her act of suicide caused by the abusive relationships she has endured. Her deceased husband gave her a life of uncertainty and risk as a professional gambler, and after his murder she existed under the threat of blackmail as the Mob pressured her for her husband’s ‘black book’. In turning to Dr. Coulter, she finds a lover and a therapist who betrays her by using his experimental DMX-1313 drug on her. The omniscient narrative implies that Holly killed herself out of desperation. Yet scholars might consider the possibility that Holly may have sacrificed her life to have placed the ‘smoking gun’ in the untouchable Doctor’s hand.
We find Darla Mc Carthy reaffirming the gender norm as the stabilizing female character in the novel. She takes the initiative in kindling a relationship with Richard Garrison, then recedes as he reestablishes contact with his own emotions. Unlike Tommy O’Hara’s girlfriend Jill Masterson, she succeeds in breaking down Richard’s walls while strengthening both their relationship and his own self-perception. She leads Brenda and Jill by example in improving their own relationships without being didactic or self-righteous. Darla becomes a ‘mother earth’ figure of serenity as opposed to Brenda being a damsel in distress and Holly opting out rather than seeking resolution to her struggles.
The Bat continues in the tradition of John Reinhard Dizon’s works in discussing the role of gender in society and literature, examining the cause and effect of cultural projections on women and how personality, psychological outlook and overall character determines social outcomes. The ‘second class citizen’ viewpoint is not only questioned but rejected in this essential insight on female perspectives.