The Crime of Femininity
Going through the lives of all these men they have many relationships but unfortunately due to the issues from their youth they all have trouble with women. None of the men have any successful or healthy relationships with women who fit into feminine roles, specifically maternal roles.
Dunstan has the most relationships the reader can see since he is the narrator. His first romantic relationship was with Leola. Leola is the epitome of femininity. She is known as pretty, charming and the belle of Deptford. Although he does say that she is his first love, he has very little attachment to her. He cares very little when she chooses Boy over him. He only feels slighted not because he cared for Leola but because his pride was hurt. He hardly sheds a tear when she kills herself; he even calls her a fool when she attempts suicide but not because of the act of suicide but because she mentions him in her suicide note. His disdain for feeling any responsibility for women’s pain causes him to view Leola’s depression harshly and unfairly. His second significant romantic relationship with a woman is Diana a nurse Dunstan meets during the war. She takes care of him when he is injured and teaches him the ways of physical love. She is smart, charming, patient and she and Dunstan become very close. Diana eventually desires to marry Dunstan, but Dunstan does not wish to marry her because of his fear of being emasculated. She is too motherly and far too confident in her role as a motherly type. Dunstan says “She was too much of a mother to me, and as I had one mother, and lost her, I was not in a hurry to acquire another…I had no intention of being anybody’s own dear laddie ever again.” (Davies 79). He fears to have another motherly figure in his life because of how terrible his previous experiences had been. That fear leads him to break off his relationship with Diana, and although he does mention her a few times through the book, she is almost completely written out and forgotten after Dunstan ends his relationship with her. Because of Dunstan’s lack of paternal love and his warped anima he rejects any attachment to motherly figures and feminine women, however, they tend to be the only women he lusts after.
Next, there is Boy who grows from spoiled brat into a cheating and abusive husband to his wife, Leola. Boy barely respects any woman and sees women only for what they can do for him. He once says to Dunstan, “A man with my physical needs cant be tied down to one woman- especially not a woman who doesn’t see sex as a partnership- who doesn’t give anything, who just lies there like a damned sandbag” (Davies 185). Boy shows his wife Leola almost no respect and cheats on her multiple times throughout their marriage. Boy tries to force Leola into the perfect wife as said: “He wanted to make her into the perfect wife for a rising young entrepreneur in sugar” (Davies 124). Leola is unable to conform and be the wife that Boy requires her to be thus leading him to begin abusing her. He even prints out naked pictures of her and shows them to Dunstan as said “Next time I dined with them all the pictures were brought out, and Boy went through them slowly, telling me exactly what H.R.H had said as each one was taken. At last, we came to the ones of Leola” (Davies 157). Boy abuses Leola throughout their entire marriage and is one of the main reasons that she eventually kills herself. Boy abuses Leola because his warped anima leads him to believe that femininity is weak and that he has the power to control women. His unconscious remembers how effortlessly he took down Mrs. Dempster causing him to unconsciously believe he can take down anyone that’s like her. Leola is trapped in a feminine role thus trapped in Boy’s abuse.
Then finally there is Paul. He has the least amount of relationships that the reader knows of, but he does have one of the most crucial relationships to the plot. His relationship with his mother never improves, and when she needs to be taken care of later in her life, Paul refuses to be there for her. His harsh childhood and lack of a proper mother figure make him view femininity as fragile, and something to resent and he fears to come near his mother as he does not want to see her in a worse state than she was before. Paul claims to not care for his mother, but this can be seen as false when at the end of the novel Paul seemingly takes revenge for his mother by causing the death of Boy Stauton.
All three of these men have unhealthy and destructive relationships with women who fit into stereotypical feminine roles, and it is almost always the woman who suffers because of it. Some may argue that femininity is not the problem, but that can be disputed when looking at the relationships the men have with women who are more masculine.