Assuming a ‘manly position’
The crisis of masculinity in Ian McEwan’s early fiction
in Incest in contemporary literature
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Ian McEwan’s early fiction delves into the dark drives and desires of ordinary men and women, revealing disturbing realities about the human psyche. McEwan’s psychological probing of deeply disturbed characters reveals how it is often the mundane feelings of inadequacy or failure that compel seemingly ‘normal’ people to commit horrific acts of sexual violence. Within selected short stories in First Love, Last Rites (1975) and In Between the Sheets (1978), and his first novelThe Cement Garden (1978), McEwan horrifies his audience by representing insidious evils that occur through the actions and in the minds of seemingly ordinary men. Reading McEwan’s portrayals of ‘manliness’ is shocking and disturbing not only in his portrayals of rape and incest, but also in the seemingly normal occurrence of sadomasochism, produced and supported by traditional gender relationships.

Editor: Miles Leeson


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