Sock it to the macho man. Women and men in Maarja Kangro’s short story collection „Hüppa tulle” (Jump into Fire)

Riina Roasto

The article studies the representation of men and women in Maarja Kangro’s short story collection „Hüppa tulle” (Jump into Fire). As literature as a form of art has the ability to question norms dominant in a society, including traditional gender norms, the article seeks to find out whether and in what way the men and women characters in Maarja Kangro’s work interact with gender stereotypes of today’s Estonian society. Kangro has been chosen for analysis because of her socially critical and ironical mode of writing. The representation of gender has this far been studied in Estonia through literary analysis. The present article provides a methodologically novel linguistic analysis of literary data.

Specifically, the article focuses on two aspects: what are the characteristics and actions of men and women characters represented in the short stories. The analysis covers all noun phrases referring to characters. The analysis is based on Michael Halliday’s (2004) functional grammar, specifically relational processes describing being and material processes referring to actions.

Protagonists and minor characters are clearly distinguished in Maarja Kangro’s short stories. The linguistic analysis demonstrated that the minor characters are represented in a very stereotypical manner. Descriptions of men stress macho attitudes, descriptions of women appearance. Men have more important professions, women low-paying ones. However, the protagonist who is female and describes the events is emphatically non-traditional. For example, the woman protagonist is sexually active, sometimes untypically violent. As the protagonist’s attitude towards the minor characters is clearly ironical, their gender-stereotyped world appears somewhat pathetic. Thus, characters who embody unequal gender roles have not been introduced by chance or in order to imitate social norms, but with the goal of ridiculing them.