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					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 may be revenge upon the ladies for the rejection
and the troubles the male had to go through; therefore, causing him to
resent females, yet returning to the source that caused the anguish. It
can also be understood as the fantasy of power in gender situations.
Thurber makes comparisons to historical and metaphorical presence of
animals and generalizes courtship as disempowering males. We see this
display with the spiders by the violent acts the lady enforces upon the
male as in the lines, "if a male lands on a female's web, she kills him
before he has time to lay down his cane and gloves... millions of males
were murdered by ladies they called on." (p 342)
      Finally, James Thurber ends his essay with the "mournful burdens of
the male," (p 343) and the different perspectives of courtship and
fantasy. He emphasizes male talent and creativity with the incorporation
of the husband quoting a poem. The wife ignoring the husband as he tries
to recant a poem displays the female short attention span. The female
fails to reinforce the males masculinity; therefore, producing a chaotic
and confusing environment where he suffocates his growth in masculinity.
The rejection caused by a female may be a severe blow to the males pride
and ego; henceforth, shattering his self-confidence and bravado or
machoistic image he parades in front of women. Such as the male fiddler
crab displaying his mighty claw for hours at end hoping to attract the
attention of a female fiddler crab.
      The author ends his story in a mellow tone.   Portraying woman as
heartless people who are always causing men grief. The men are trying
their best to please them in anyway possible, but still the women refuses
his advances. He implies, that although a female may feel deeply
interested, her objective may be elsewhere, as in the lines, "she sat
quietly enough until he was well into the middle of the thing ... then
suddenly their came a sharp, disconcerting slap ... it turned out that
all during the male's display, the female had been intent on a circling
mosquito and had finally trapped it between the palms of her hands." (p
344)    After this the male felt his pride was hurt and that all his
intentions were for nothing.   There after he went to find solace in his
drink at the bar where other men were present, and could relate to his
sorrow. Most of them were familiar with the song "Honey, Honey, Bless
Your Heart." (p 344) This song suggests how females can cause such
heartbreak and turmoil among men. Yet, they always come back, thus
making us part of the circle of life.