Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Perpetuating the hierarchical dichotomy

Current book: Absalom, Absalom!
Pages read: None

So, I didn't read today, but I'm still thinking about something Faulkner said in yesterday's pages.

"...his fierce provincial's pride in his sister's virginity was a false quantity which must incorporate in itself an inability to endure in order to be precious, to exist, and so must depend upon its loss, absence, to have existed at all." (96)

My initial reaction to that was that it was ridiculous and tautological, which it kind of is, but, upon considering, I was forced to acknowledge the fact that virginity is defined, somewhat, by its absence. (Man, also, just take a moment to look at the guy's diction. This is what I wade through every day.) After all, if it's never going to be taken away, it has no value. It's only in the ephemerality of it that we find value at all. I'm not sure that's a good thing; in fact, I think it may be a bad one for society, that we see virginity as a commodity or a gift of some kind. It's so backward of us, really, to value a woman's sexual purity, since it comes from the rather archaic notion that it's the only way to be sure any child a bridegroom has is his own. I mean, really, I think we've moved on at this point. And yet, there's still this sense of the value of remaining a virgin until marriage, or, if not that, at least the idea that a woman's virginity is a gift to whomever "takes" it. Whereas, if a woman has sex with a virgin man, she's usually the one perceived as generous. How weird is that? Male virginity is a liability, and female virginity is a commodity and a mark of moral fortitude.

Of course, then, Faulkner goes on to say the following.

"In fact, perhaps this is the pure and perfect incest: the brother realizing that the sister's virginity must be destroyed in order to have existed at all, taking that virginity in the person of the brother-in-law, the man whom he would be if he could become, metamorphose into, the lover, the husband..." (96)

While I see the point that by exercising his ability to choose a spouse for his sister, Henry is, in some ways, complicit in deflowering her (See that? Complicit. As though it's a crime. Clearly I am not immune to the social mores I've just been whining about.), for Faulkner to use the word "realizing" here is a bit of a stretch. I mean, come on, Faulkner. You just called the guy a provincial, and now he's realizing his incestuous tendencies and using his friend to vicariously deflower his sister in order to slake his own forbidden lust? Let's not get carried away, huh? Also? Ew.

1 comment:

  1. And here I always thought it was touching that brothers were protective of their sisters. Wow, that Faulkner, he sees things that I sure missed. And, also, I agree with "Ew".



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