Female Dominance or Male Failure?


James Thurber illustrates the male species\' status with respect to, “
Courtship Through The Ages” with a humorous and melancholic tone. He emphasizes
the lack of success males experience through courtship rituals and the constant
rejection we endure. Our determination of courting the female with all our “
love displays” may be pointless as it is evident in the repetitive failures of
courtship by all male creatures. Thurber shares his problems with courtship and
the role which men portray, he explores the relationship between nature and
culture, and the demands culture places on men. Thurber\'s frustration with the
female species is obvious and is reflected throughout his essay. The
extremities males endure to obtain female attention become overwhelming and
incomprehensible to Thurber, consequently conflicting with the myth and
construction of the ideal of masculinity.
Thurber\'s frustrations with women are evident right from the start. He
displaces male insubordination to the blueprint of nature and it\'s “complicated
musical comedy.” (Rosengarten and Flick, 340) It\'s interesting that he
attributes nature as a female creator and thus justifying the relationship that “
none of the females of any species she created cared very much for the males.”
(p 340)
Thurber compares the similarities of courtship to the complicated works
of Encyclopedia Brittanica. A book which is full of wonders and within lies
mysteries of the unknown and unpredictable. In comparison to the Encyclopedia
Brittanica the female is alike in many ways, such as its perfect construction
and orderly appearance seeming as if they replicate one another like a clone. I
believe Thurber views all female species as being similar to one another with
respect to their character.
The author also associates courtship as a business, a show business. A
world which is chaotic, disorderly and full of confusion much like nature. It
is an aggressive competition between genders in which mother nature dominates.
He also attributes the similarity of constructed rules and regulations in need
of much guidance with the help of a hand manual.
Culture also places demands on males. Males who are lacking in outer
appearance and sexual appeal try to diminish their faults by acquiring gifts “to
win her attention... and bring her candy, flowers, and the furs of animals” (p
340) for the lady in courting. Women\'s refusals became men\'s burden which laid
heavily on their shoulders in the social relationship. “These \'love displays\'
were being constantly turned down, insulted, or thrown out of the house.” (p
340) This produced the evident exhaustion of the male species such as the “
fiddler crab who had been standing on tip-toe for eight or ten hours waving a
heavy claw in the air is in pretty bad shape.” (p 342)
Thurber trivializes the easily bored female, which leads to actions that
seek her attention. “Men had to go in for somersaults, tilting and lancing, and
performing feats of parlor magic,” and go to “sorrowful lengths ... to arouse
the interest of a lady.” (p 340) This would prevent her from, [going] quietly
to sleep.” (p 341) He also reiterates the issue of female desire. Their
desires are not sexual but consume in material possessions. This also supports,
“the age-old desire of the male for the female, the age- old desire of the
female to be amused and entertained.” (p 343) Males are displayed as tending to
the every need and want of females, thus portraying the male as a victim or
slave of the female “he never knows how soon the female will demand heavier
presents, such as Roman coins and gold collar buttons.” (p 341)
Although females are assisted in tasks by males they pride their
independence, just as the female fiddler crab displayed. “A female fiddler crab
will not tolerate any caveman stuff; she never has and she doesn\'t intend to
start now.” (p 342) Thurber seems quite confused of this idea but none the less
is good humored and willing to try again to understand courtship rituals.
Throughout Thurber\'s essay he uses the metaphors of the animals and
performer. Just as the male spider is endangering himself by nearing the
female\'s nest, the artist creates his music by “going for web-twitching, or
strand-vibrating,” (p 342) and endangers himself of being killed by the audience
who consumes his art.
The act of violence can be seen as the act of love, metaphorically
displayed by the grebe birds. “The purely loving display is a faint hope of
drowning her or scaring her to death.” (p 343) This illustrates his growing
hostility and frustration with women and courtship rituals. Another
interpretation