Women in the 1930’s and 1940’s had certain roles they were to fulfill, such as being caring mother, diligent homemaker, and an obedient wife. This role of women has evolved over the years. Many women of this time period didn’t have jobs and were confined to the home as their workplace. This began to change though as time went on. Women began earning an income, though they still had certain roles in the home. “By the 1960’s 30. 5% of wives were earning an income and contributed 26% of the family’s total income” (Kessler 301).
These figures would continue to increase over the years.
Though one thing that hasn’t changed is how males view women. Men have for centuries viewed women as the caring mother, homemaker, obedient wife, and lastly someone to meet their physical needs. Though for many men in Charles Bukowski’s novel Ham on Rye the women are just someone for their sexual needs and wants. Bukowski conveys misogyny through the main character Henry throughout the novel. Ham on Rye gives the reader a clear perception of how painful relationships, disfiguring acne, and early alcoholism can cause so much hatred toward people to only try to protect themselves.
At an early age Henry develops an aversion toward women which stays with him throughout the novel. Henry’s childhood was full of pain and anger. This was mainly a result of the relationship he had with his father—violent and traumatic, with beatings, verbal abuse, ostracism, and embarrassment. Even though Henry’s father was doing the physical abuse, his mother was causing him pain too by not standing up for him. It frustrated Henry that his mother wouldn’t protect him from his father. After one of his beatings Henry said to his mother, “It wasn’t right.
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Why didn’t you help me? ” Her response was, “The father is always right” (Bukowski 39).
His mother’s words and actions it reveal a weakness toward women and she is telling him men are superior to women. This is later embraced when Henry’s father is cheating on his mother and then beats her after the women he is cheating on her with steals his car. Henry’s father never apologized to his mother and his mother acted like nothing ever occurred and continued to always take the father’s side.
She even in a way helped encourage a beating when Henry mowed the grass and it was not all perfectly even. This in turn increased his hatred toward women set an example that disrespecting and mistreating women is acceptable. “Since Henry grew up this way, perhaps it is not strange that he got a kind of hateful view of not only women, but people in general” (Korhonen 17).
Though Henry hated his father he did resemble him in one way and that is the way he treated women. Henry started this hatred and disrespect at a young age.
In only the fourth grade Henry wanted to “do it” with the girl next door in a vacant lot not even knowing what he wanted to do. After she told him she couldn’t Henry got up and said, “God damn it” then walk out of the lot and went home (45).
This is the start of a very troubled boy who only gets worse as time progresses. Remembering this is a fourth grader wanting to have a sexual confrontation with this little girl and then saying God damn it is not acceptable. As a fourth grader Henry should not want to take part in these kinds of actions and also should not be using that kind of language.
Though in Henry’s mind the main purpose of women is for having sex and that it is acceptable to speak toward women like he did. The males that Henry was around did not have very good language; they often used curse words while speaking. For example in one instance Henry’s father told him to mow the grass faster and then Henry started running, as a result Henrys father screamed, “YOU SON-OF-A-BITCH” (68).
When a child is raised around people with poor language, the child often uses the same poor language and that is exactly what happened in Henry’s case.
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Henry cursed at people very often or at least sad things to them that wasn’t very nice. Most males in this world would like it if an attractive girl was rooting them on at a sporting event though that wasn’t the case for Henry. At a baseball game Henry was up to bat and he was 2-1 with one more chance to hit the ball a very cute girl said, “Butch, please do it” and his remark back was “shut up” (183).
With that remark back to the girl it is clear that Henry has an aversion toward women. What kind of man says that to an attractive girl other than to just be plain mean?
There is a saying “You are who you hang around” and that is exactly what happen to Henry. As a young boy he saw how his father and other men treated women. Unfortunately, Henry walked right in his father’s footsteps and didn’t treat women any better. At a young age the hatred toward women started to develop and it only got worse through his language and actions as Henry aged.