The Destruction Of Black Masculinity In Ann Petry's Short Fiction
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Type of WorkText
DepartmentEnglish and Languages
ProgramMaster of Arts
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This study seeks to explore the ways in which black masculinity is impacted by black women's behavior in selected short fiction by Ann Petry. To meet this goal, the researcher applies black masculinity theory to the seven narratives. The language used and the exploits employed by black women are scrutinized in order to identify their influence upon the psyche and actions of black men. The Street, Petry's most well known work, focuses on a black woman's struggle to provide a wholesome life for her son in Harlem. She is sexually objectified; she is forced to physically defend herself against men; she is essentially the victim. In this study, however, the metaphorical tables are turned. Petry's narratives that are analyzed for the purposes of this research feature black male protagonists who are persecuted by black women. One of Petry's earliest stories, "On Saturday the Siren Sounds at Noon," is a blueprint for those that follow in this study, as six narratives from Petry's Miss Muriel and Other Stories, the first collection published by a black woman, present black men who are terrorized. The black men in this investigation want the best for their families; they want to provide for and protect their loved ones. They have the desire to fulfill the roles that society expects of them. However, these men battle substantial abuse from the women in their lives. The women verbally insult men, fail to perform wifely and maternal responsibilities, and imitate hateful actions that some white people inflict upon black men. Consequently, the women leave the men to fend for themselves. When the man can no longer tolerate the actions of the women, most of the men retaliate. Few scholars have taken interest in what causes black men in Petry's short fiction to respond. This study finds that black women are the motivating force behind the destruction of black masculinity in selected short stories by Ann Petry.