Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2011

Document Type




First Advisor

Dr. Anthony Abiragi


Young male characters represent (whether through words or actions) cultural ideals about masculinity within literature and film. However, because masculinity is a culturally constructed identity, (there is a strong difference between “biological sex” and “social gender”), masculine identity must be learned or absorbed by the individual male character during the course of his development. While society and culture play a crucial role in the self-development and self-identification of masculinity, familial relationships are amongst the most influential aspects that shape the development of gender. This thesis focuses specifically on the development of son characters that are forced to develop their masculinity under the tutelage of mother characters due to the lack of a father figure. It also focuses on how mother characters are presented as an obstruction to the development of masculinity within their sons. Western Culture perpetuates an ideology that sons must break away from their mothers in order to achieve maturity and masculinity. Such action on the part of son characters is not easy; son characters are reliant upon their mothers as they are simultaneously nurturers and the means by which sons learn their masculinity in the absence of the father. However, son characters lacking an actual biological male as a father figure are inherently presented as immature and underdeveloped. This portrayal favors the perspective that the development of maturity within son characters requires the presence of a father figure; thus does Western Culture undermine the importance of mothers in the development of sons. This thesis is divided into four separate chapters the cover a variety of mediums and time periods. Chapter One focuses on the Homeric Epics, Chapter Two centers around William Shakespeare‟s Macbeth, Chapter Three explores Alfred Hitchcock‟s Psycho, and Chapter Four critically analyzes the modern popular culture film Fight Club, directed by David Fincher.