Is mysoginism the main theme?

Use this forum to discuss the October Book of the Month "McDowell" by William H. Coles.
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Re: Is mysoginism the main theme?

Post by FictionLover » 02 Oct 2018, 06:57

Eva Darrington wrote:
01 Oct 2018, 23:09
gen_g wrote:
01 Oct 2018, 23:02
From the examples listed, it does seem like misogyny is present in the novel. However, I suppose there are other factors to consider, such as the social and the economic. I'm definitely not condoning such sexism - although I have to say that sexism is still prevalent in society today, but in a more insidious manner IMO.
I think I feel more forgiving about issues like misogyny in literature if it is a character flaw that is written into a character for a purpose that serves the narrative. This is just feeling like an indulgence, if you know what I mean. I haven't finished the book but I'm not sure yet that I want to at this point.
I have said this a few times during the BOTD comments: I know flawed characters are very popular in literary fiction, however it is very difficult to read a whole novel when the viewpoint character is someone you despise.

Of note, after he assesses all the women in his family, he takes his goof-off son out on the town. He disparages his step-daughter who is putting herself out there to become a cheerleader but thinks nothing of rewarding his son for screwing up his education and wasting Dad's money.
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Post by Farmgurl1 » 02 Oct 2018, 07:24

McDowell is definitely an interesting character study. In the beginning of the novel I felt like he was heartless and cruel, but over the course of the novel he changed. I'm sorry but I can't feel bad for the women in his life. Everyone makes their own choices and they chose to be treated like crap and stay victims because they wanted access to his money. The daughter is a little different because she didn't chose him as a father, so I do feel bad for her. I despised McDowell's character in the beginning, but by the end of the book, I liked him.

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Post by HollandBlue » 02 Oct 2018, 07:44

MagensWife1995 wrote:
01 Oct 2018, 13:29
BookReader+6 wrote:
01 Oct 2018, 11:38
I think there's also an element of narcissism in the book!
What makes you think this? I have not read but a few pages so far. Can you give an example? where in this book you see narcissism?
Hiram just seems so self-involved and arrogant, maybe narcissistic isn't the right term. I've only read the sample so far, and his treatment of women is despicable.
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Post by gen_g » 02 Oct 2018, 08:56

FictionLover wrote:
02 Oct 2018, 06:50
Sahani Nimandra wrote:
02 Oct 2018, 00:36
gen_g wrote:
01 Oct 2018, 23:03


This type of writing honestly puts me off - and in Chapter 1, no less! It's definitely obvious that the narrator/author sees women as objects, and that's rather gross.
Author may reflects this but that doesn't mean it's not true. William H Cole reflects the reality in man who is a sexist.
Read the sample for The Spirit of Want. He does the same thing in that book, comparing two sisters to each other followed by a drunk driving scene. Just not my type of 'literature'.
Ah..while I do agree that sometimes sexism is written into characters for a purpose (to show a point), but it seems like it is inherited from the author...? Nonetheless, while the former is understandable, the latter is personally very much off-putting.

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Post by Eva Darrington » 02 Oct 2018, 09:15

Sahani Nimandra wrote:
02 Oct 2018, 00:36
gen_g wrote:
01 Oct 2018, 23:03
Eva Darrington wrote:
01 Oct 2018, 23:00
I am noticing some misogyny, both in the characters and the narration. Part of misogyny is a hyper-focus on women's body sizes and physical appearances. The author writes about three women in a row, and comments on their weight and appearances. Carole was "flabby now" and wasn't exercising; "Tasha teetered on the cusp of overweight with legs like ice cream cones," then he wonders if she would "splat" another cheerleader; And of Sheryl, "He didn't like the size of her nose with dark deep wells for nostrils. She was a little overweight...." This is just the first few pages of Chapter 1.
This type of writing honestly puts me off - and in Chapter 1, no less! It's definitely obvious that the narrator/author sees women as objects, and that's rather gross.
Author may reflects this but that doesn't mean it's not true. William H Cole reflects the reality in man who is a sexist.
It's true that this content does reflect a reality of sexism in our culture. There is a way to comment on this, as an author, through the words and behaviors of characters. It can be instructive. For me, this feels more gratuitous, like a tell about the author more so than an integral part of the narrative. There is so much permission for sexism to flourish in the US right now that I don't want to read a book full of this guy's unresolved misogyny.
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Post by Cecilia_L » 02 Oct 2018, 11:18

Ruba Abu Ali wrote:
01 Oct 2018, 09:51
My personal opinion is that mysoginism is strongly present in McDowell's. Is it still present in society? Yes, and its repercussions are, unfortunately, present in society.
Though I've only read the book's sample and review, I got the same impression, Ruba. I also agree that is sadly present today, as well.

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Post by KMSingh » 02 Oct 2018, 11:35

Farmgurl1 wrote:
02 Oct 2018, 07:24
McDowell is definitely an interesting character study. In the beginning of the novel I felt like he was heartless and cruel, but over the course of the novel he changed. I'm sorry but I can't feel bad for the women in his life. Everyone makes their own choices and they chose to be treated like crap and stay victims because they wanted access to his money. The daughter is a little different because she didn't chose him as a father, so I do feel bad for her. I despised McDowell's character in the beginning, but by the end of the book, I liked him.
Thanks for this comment. I was beginning to feel like people were more interested in treating the character as though he were one-dimensional. Coles uses all of these things to build his characters and stories and he lets them interact. One can only imagine how dreary it all would be if McDowell were the ultimate male feminist.
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Post by Doug Jones » 02 Oct 2018, 12:15

On the original question: no, misogyny is not the core theme of McDowell. Redemption is. Hiram's misogyny is symptomatic of his general contempt for everyone who isn't Hiram McDowell. A man like Michael O'Leary was shamelessly used and abused as Carole was.

I won't deny that there is still misogyny in society today, nor will I deny that Hiram exhibits it in this book. But it most certainly isn't the main theme.

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Post by JuliaKay » 02 Oct 2018, 14:40

This was my impression. In the first few pages alone, we learn that he is on his third wife, who he treats terrible (she, of course, is still catering to him), he is having an affair, he remarks on the size of a waitress's breasts, remarks on the appearance of his step-daughters and is rather cruel toward them, and he even asks his son if he is involved with either of his step-sisters. To read that this theme continues throughout the book isn't surprising, but I wonder if it was intentional to make it such a prominent theme.
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Post by Eva Darrington » 02 Oct 2018, 16:52

FictionLover wrote:
02 Oct 2018, 06:50
Sahani Nimandra wrote:
02 Oct 2018, 00:36
gen_g wrote:
01 Oct 2018, 23:03

This type of writing honestly puts me off - and in Chapter 1, no less! It's definitely obvious that the narrator/author sees women as objects, and that's rather gross.
Author may reflects this but that doesn't mean it's not true. William H Cole reflects the reality in man who is a sexist.
Read the sample for The Spirit of Want. He does the same thing in that book, comparing two sisters to each other followed by a drunk driving scene. Just not my type of 'literature'.
Just read the sample of The Spirit of Want. Good god. He can not stop talking about how overweight the women are and how their legs are like tree trunks. I'm out.
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Post by FictionLover » 02 Oct 2018, 17:38

Eva Darrington wrote:
02 Oct 2018, 16:52
FictionLover wrote:
02 Oct 2018, 06:50
Sahani Nimandra wrote:
02 Oct 2018, 00:36


Author may reflects this but that doesn't mean it's not true. William H Cole reflects the reality in man who is a sexist.
Read the sample for The Spirit of Want. He does the same thing in that book, comparing two sisters to each other followed by a drunk driving scene. Just not my type of 'literature'.
Just read the sample of The Spirit of Want. Good god. He can not stop talking about how overweight the women are and how their legs are like tree trunks. I'm out.
I'm with you there. :character-jaws:
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Post by bear_6743 » 02 Oct 2018, 18:01

Although misogyny is a theme in the novel I feel that it is subordinate to other themes, such as redemption. It is very much a character driven plot with McDowell at the center of it all. Misogyny is still alive and present in today's society and I feel that it will likely always be present. Certainly a main characteristic of McDowell is his treatment of women and how he uses them but I feel that the author is using this as a tool to try and distract the reader from some of his other horrible characteristics. Being a misogynist is hardly his worst trait, unfortunately.

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Post by Ferdinand_otieno » 03 Oct 2018, 02:48

It is definitely a main theme since the plot seems to even take us to a war torn third world country where the treatment of women is shocking to say the least.
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Post by Nerea » 03 Oct 2018, 04:12

Am not sure about this. I need to complete reading the book and find out.
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Post by Ravinder+Kaur » 03 Oct 2018, 04:33

Misogyny is just one of the themes in the book. Coles used it time and again, with other characters as well besides Hiram, just to show its prevalence in society. In this book it was attributed, along with other degrading characteristics, to Hiram to build an antagonist character in Part 1.

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