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How does Willy Russell address issues of gender in the extracts from 'Shirley Valentine'?

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Introduction

Task: How does Willy Russell address issues of gender in the extracts from 'Shirley Valentine'? The 1980's was a decade of reform from what was considered the expected roles of society. A major youth society emerged with more youths being independent from their older generations at an earlier age; this is signified by the masses of music written at the time aimed at the youth and the boost in nightclubs. Following the movements of the 70's and early 80's women's rights had been greatly changed; their roles in the work place had been widened, women now could take more senior positions as equals to the men unlike generations before where women would be housewives or be employed work which was seen as appropriately feminine at the time. Similarly roles in the relationships were changing; those women who were now full time worker in powerful positions could no longer look after the children and household as housewives, as was common in previous generations, instead it became more common for marriages and families to be formed late in life, for relationships where the roles of the housewife would be shared between both husband and wife or even for the husband to assume the role as a househusband. ...read more.

Middle

They don't know how to listen or they feel that they have to take over the conversation". This speech, and the example which Shirley also includes with it, holds various evidence within it for all of the three of the gender conversational models. The dominance model, the male conversationalist sees the woman as a disadvantaged speaker and feels the need to assert himself as the dominant participant, this is how Shirley perceives the situation but by looking at the evidence closer the reader can justify the two other gender models. The difference model, the male conversationalist style sees the situation differently than the female perceiving the topic raised as a discussion he then develops her topic to continue the conversation. The deficit model, the female conversationalist lacks a tag on her opening line encouraging no response from the male and losing topic control, in this model the woman lacks the techniques to collaborate with the man. Another opinion of Shirley's is that Costas is not like other men with his conversational style. When she talks to Costas Shirley maintains topic control, often by using politeness strategies, to which Costas responds politely and without threatening behaviour or aggressive dominance technique such as her husband Joe uses. ...read more.

Conclusion

Shirley's conversational style, unlike the two male characters Joe and Carlos, doe not remain constant through out but rather progresses changing converging with her situation. At the beginning of the play Shirley's conversations tend to be a battle for topic control with Joe and using her intelligible nature and literate advantage she produces various sarcastic witty phrases to achieve topic control. Later at the end of the play Shirley's style has changed dramatically, her use of taboo language and long pauses in her speech mirror male speech and seem to show a convergence with Joe as she has gained her understanding of the world. Overall Willy Russell has shown gender conversational styles to be diverse and controversial, not unique to a gender but diverse. This can be seen through the conversational styles of Joe, dominant, threatening, and using minimal responses, and Carlos, polite and veracious, one thought of as a typically male style the other a feminine style. Shirley also shows this diversity through her changing of styles to incorporate the typically masculine features at the end of the play but also in her example of male speech where the gender models can all be met preventing it being classified as one definite style. ...read more.

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