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Examining the Representation of Masculinity Identity in Nice Work

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Examining the representation of masculinity identity in Nice Work

                                                           Kun Long

  1. Introduction

This essay mainly aims to explore the representation of masculinity identity both in male and female in Nice Work, which is a novel written by David Lodge who establish his reputation mainly on his academic novels and his literary criticism and theory. This book describes encounters between Robyn Penrose, a feminist university teacher specializing in the industrial novel and women's writing, and Vic Wilcox, the manager of an engineering firm.

Generally, there are two types of characteristic in term of gender in human-being;

masculinity and femininity. “It is true that the concept exited long before 1970s. Its full meaning was not developed well, however, until 1970s” (Clyde W. Franklin II, The Changing Definition of Masculinity, 1984(5)). It is extremely hard to define what masculinity is. Does masculinity is the privilege of male? David Lodge gives us a vivid representation and provides us a very different perspective in one of his world-famous trilogy, Nice Work.

  1. Analysis of masculine identity in Nice Work

Vic Wilcox and Robyn Penrose are the leading characters, in other words, the protagonist in Nice Work. Masculine identity is widely represented in both Vic and Robyn through the vivid and subtle description of David Lodge.

  1. The masculinity in Vic Wilcox

      Vic Wilcox, managing director of a local engineering company in Rummidge, enjoying great reputation and wealth in his area. Masculinity can be seen both in his family and work. In family, he acts as the leading role and breadwinner while his wife, Marjorie, is considered as the general housekeeper. When it comes to some topic like daughter education, sexual life etc., the policy maker eventually almost fall in Vic’s role to play in. For example,

         Marjorie blushes. “Well, she needs a new pair of shoes…”

         “You are a fool, Marje!” Vic explains. “You spoil that girl something rotten. All she thinks about is clothes, shoes, hairstyles. What kind of A-levels do you think she is going to get?”

         “I don’t know. But if she doesn’t want to go to University.”

         “She is thinking of hairdressing.”

         “Hair dressing!” Vic puts as much concept into his voice as he can muster. (David Lodge. Nice Work, 9)

    From this conversation we can sense the conflict between Vic and Marjorie in the

education of their daughter. And at that time Vic first represent his male identity

in this novel, which, in more detailed, is called assertiveness to control the whole

family to a right direction , like the capital in a ship.  

  And not very long after, another problem occurs to their life and bothers them

in a considerably way.

“ You mean , you’ve got it back?” Vic asked flatly.

“Well. I don’t know,” she said. “I mean, I won’t , will I , mot till we try, I think

we ought to give it a try, Vic.


‘Well, it’s natural for married couples. You used to want to…” There was a

dangerous quarter in Marjorie’s voice.

“Everything comes to an end,” he said desperately. “We’re getting on”

“But we’re mot old, Vic, not that old. The book says-”

“Fuck the book,” said Vic.

Marjorie began to cry. (David Lodge. Nice Work, 113)

    This conversation unveils the sexual conflict between Vic and his wife. The behavior that Vic refuses the proposal of having sex represents the independence and assertiveness, which are both symbols of masculinity, indicating, at the same time, the marriage between Vic and Marjorie is coming to a dead end in the foreseeable future.



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