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Kennon, P. (2017). Monsters of Men: Masculinity and the Other in Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking Series. Psychoanal. Inq., 37(1):25-34.

(2017). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 37(1):25-34

Monsters of Men: Masculinity and the Other in Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking Series

Patricia Kennon, Ph.D.

To date, studies of gender issues in young adult dystopian novels have been dominated by a focus on constructions of female subjectivity, girlhood, and the potential for female empowerment. However, little critical attention has been correspondingly dedicated to examining how regimes of masculinity, traditional privileges of male power, and male adolescence are represented and mediated in dystopian fiction for teenagers. Patrick Ness’s exploration of normative and transgressive embodiments of masculinity in his dystopian Chaos Walking series for young adults powerfully addresses tensions between power and vulnerability, autonomy and conformity, and concepts of boyhood and manhood. Through their experiences with the possibilities of telepathy, biotechnology, and interspecies relationships, Ness’s protagonists must negotiate with the simultaneous attraction of the fragmented self and its threat to the regulation of conventional manhood, as male characters struggle to sustain their inherited understanding of themselves and the relation between self and other. Through his problematizing of the boundaries between traditional hegemonic and Other, human and alien codes, and his emphasis on the importance of non-hierarchical and inclusive co-existence, Ness proposes a receptive, expansive, and egalitarian paradigm of masculinity.

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