Thursday, May 21, 2009

Chauvinism in Popular Literature

I love mystery novels. Since my favorite authors haven't published anything new recently, I had to turn to John Grisham, one of my stop-gap mystery writers. For the most part, his books are painful to read because the language is beyond primitive. It is fun, however, to observe the chauvinistic slips of tongue that seep into the novel and seem to be unplanned on the author's part.

The protagonists of Grisham's latest paperback The Appeal, are Mary Grace and Wes Payton, a lawyer couple that takes on a huge chemical corporation. After a gruelling trial that lasts for months and leaves both Paytons exhausted, Mary Grace and Wes come home to their two children, a boy and a girl. While Wes settles down on the sofa for some well-deserved rest, Mary Grace (who worked on the case as much if not more than her husband) heads to the kitchen to make dinner. She takes her small daughter into the kitchen as well, leaving the son to chill out with his father. The daughter soon leaves, which makes the narrator observe that she didn't YET have any interest in cooking.
The whole scene sounds absolutely monstrous to any one but a complete chauvinist. What is even scarier, though, is the casual nature of such patriarchal throwbacks. It's so easy to get lost in the intricacies of the plot and fail to notice these seemingly innocuous scenes and comments.


Anonymous said...


Clarissa said...

More than a novel this book is actually an impassioned manifesto aimed against the corporate manipulation of the judiciary. Grisham is way more liberal than I am in what concerns the rights of trial lawyers and the current tort laws. I'm sure that his chauvinism is not purposeful. It just slips in without the author even realizing it.