Mc Teague – Gender and Sexuality
The novel, Mc Teague, by Frank Norris is set in San Francisco, California. The novel is about a story of a young man by the name Mc Teague who is a dentist by profession. He is introduced to a young woman by the name Trina. Immediately after these two meet, something is stirred within Mc Teague, something he has never felt before. This is a sexual awakening for him. When Mc Teague is performing some dental procedure on Trina, he hesitates as he could not bear watching Trina in pain and for this reason he administers some anaesthetic. This makes Trina unconscious and it is during this time that Mc Teague’s other side wells up. In this paper, I will analyze the theme of gender and sexuality brought forth by this novel into detail.
The first instance where the theme of gender and sexuality is depicted lies in the display that men dominate over women when Mc Teague’s proposal for marriage to Trina is finally accepted. The two engage in a questionable kiss where Mc Teague uses immense strength on her (Norris 66). They kiss grossly and Trina attempts to pull herself away from Mc Teague’s grip. Later in the pages, we are taken through Trina’s reflections of the kiss. In the reflection, Trina wonders why she felt the desire of being overpowered by a superior strength. She feels that she needed to be conquered by a superior strength, she was thrilled and felt passion for not only needing to be conquered, but also because of the conquering itself – this invokes the Trina’s sexual awakening. In the book, the narrator puts it as “Until that day…. Trina had lived her life with as little self-consciousness as a tree… at once there had been a mysterious disturbance. The woman within her suddenly awoke” (Norris 70). From this statement, it is clear that Trina enjoyed the desires that came along with submitting to Mc Teague because it made her recognize an aspect about her that she had not acknowledged.
The theme of sexuality is also depicted by the statement; “Mc Teague had awakened the woman, and whether she would or no, she was his now irrevocably …. She had not sought it; she had not desired it. The spell was laid upon her” (Norris 71). This shows that Trina had not planned or dreamt of exploring her sexuality but she could not ignore it now that it was awakened. Additionally, Trina’s sexuality now belonged to Teague since he was the catalyst of her sexual awakening.
The theme of gender and sexuality is also evident at the instant where Trina submits to Mc Teague’s dominance during their marriage. Mc Teague pinches Trina and at the same gnawing on her fingers because he was intending to extort money from her. Trina attempts to tell him to stop the gnawing and pinching but her response to the violence brings a total twist to the whole issue. According to Norris (p.244), the brutality in some strange and way made Trina more affectionate; some unwholesome love of submission. She was surrendering to the will of an irresistible power.
The sexual identity of Trina has been formed through her associating with Mc Teague and the physical dominance he has over her. As a result of this, Trina wants to cling on her sexual identity and hence feelings of pleasure arise when Mc Teague inflicts pain and dominates her. Trina has associated pain with her acknowledgement of her sexuality which as a result arouses her.
Mc Teague does not fit in any categorization of manliness as depicted in the novel. For example, while he has his own business to run, he does so without a license. He has not been considered fit by the standards formed by the society to be a proper economic man, which include the necessity of a license and a good education. His occupation as a dentist requires skill, schooling and precision, all of which he has not met. Additionally, his physical body only makes him fit for labor required in the pre-industrial era. Additionally, he does not exercise his sexuality in an appropriate manner. To start with, he seems asexual at the beginning of the novel, he is devoid of any sexual desire. Some standards dictate that a man should meet some criteria with regards to some aspects such as occupation and also on how they relate with women. Men are expected to exhibit proficiency in dealing with sexual matters as well as expressing sexual desires and dominance without violence. However, with Mc Teague first appearing asexual where he is lustfully attracted to Marcus and later dominating over Trina sexually fails in the meeting the standards set on regards to masculine sexuality.
Men perceive women as the weaker sex. In the novel, this is shown when Mc Teague and Trina kiss and he expresses distaste for her. A man does not like a woman who portrays their weakness so vividly. However, men demand some level of weakness from women in order for them to establish their own power.
Norris, Frank. McTeague: A story of San Francisco. Westminster, UK: Penguin, 1994. Print.