White Masculinity on the Verge in Rick Moody's the Ice Storm (1994)

By Chapuis, Sophie | Culture, Society and Masculinities, Spring 2011 | Go to article overview

White Masculinity on the Verge in Rick Moody's the Ice Storm (1994)


Chapuis, Sophie, Culture, Society and Masculinities


This article explores the anxieties of White masculinity in Rick Moody's second novel The Ice Storm (1994). Set in a period of national and international unrest, the year 1973, the novel bears witness to the growing vulnerability of White males who live in northeastern White suburbs that appear as precarious bastions of conservatism. Our ambition is to suggest that the crises metaphorically affecting the national body of the United States are about to affect in turn the body of White suburban males. Indeed, it seems that men are constantly on the verge of falling, whether physically or socially. Potential breakdown looms large in this era of social agitation and cultural transformations.

KEYWORDS: WHITE MASCULINITY, SUBURBS, BODY IN CRISIS, RICK MOODY

In her epilogue entitled "Same as it ever was (more or less)," Catherine Jurca suggests that representations of the suburbs are still deeply rooted in a literary tradition that goes back to John Updike and John Cheever. The title of her epilogue laments the fact that nothing new has emerged since the 1960s, for suburbanites have long been plagued by the same torments, i.e. "alienation, anguish, and self-pity" (2001, p. 161). The critic includes Rick Moody in the list of writers who have specialized in the subgenre of suburban writing although Moody has always had some trouble accepting this literary inheritance, especially because of its realistic trend.1 However, it is an undeniable fact that his early novels2 mainly deal with the anxieties of White middle class families who live in suburban towns of northeastern America.

The Ice Storm, Rick Moody's second novel, was published in 1994 but the action is set in 1973, at a time of domestic and international crises. The novel opens with the Cold War, the Vietnam War, the looming Watergate and the oil crisis as a backdrop- a period immediately described as "dark ages" (p. 4). Although the novel is set in the well-named suburb of New Canaan, Connecticut, we are easily led to understand that the apparent domestic felicity is precarious and may soon be shattered. Our goal is not to focus on White suburban families as a whole but isolate its most disabled member, the White male adult and father- in our case, Benjamin Hood, a security analyst approaching his fortieth birthday, whose physical insecurity may be symptomatic of a period of uncertainties. Indeed, throughout the novel, it seems that two crises run parallel: one affecting the political body of the United States, the other affecting the White man's intimate body.

As we will try to articulate these two crises, we here use as a starting point the hypothesis developed by social critic Barbara Ehreinreich who identifies the anguish of the White middle class as a genuine fear of falling, "a fear of inner weakness, of growing soft, of failing to strive, of losing discipline and will. (...) Whether the middle class looks down toward the realm of less, there is the fear, always, of falling" (Ehrenreich, 1989, p. 15).

We argue that the fear of falling not only causes distress to a whole social class but affects most specifically the category of White men. Drawing on Ehreinreich's analysis, Catherine Jurca suggests in her epilogue that a similar anguish is to be found in suburban writing: "The fear of falling, and actual falling, looms large in this literature" (2001, p. 164). Indeed, in The Ice Storm, Moody portrays White men who are on the verge of falling but pretend they are still standing upright while the world around them is collapsing.

When historian Arthur M. Schlesinger published "The Crisis of American Masculinity" in the late 1950s, he asked the following question: "What has happened to the American male?" Schlesinger identifies a growing concern with men's sense of virility that has become mainly observable in American fiction at the turn of the 20th century. According to him, early male characters- he quotes the frontiersmen of James Fenimore Cooper- were not preoccupied with their maleness because they were not aware of acting like males. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

White Masculinity on the Verge in Rick Moody's the Ice Storm (1994)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.