Theory on Gender Themes in YA Literature: Pendragon Edition

Okay, so back in September I put forth a theory on why males or females are drawn to a particular novel in the Young Adult section of the library.

Now, after four months, I’ve finally gotten around to writing the next piece of evidence. This time I chose Pendragon: The Merchant of Death.


Before I go on, let’s review my theory:

Females generally focus on stories that deal with external circumstances beyond their control, such as expectations/requirements of family, society, their caste; the redefinition of self as a capable person, and rites of passage/ ceremonies.

Male readers, on the other hand, generally go for stories with challenges that involve set tasks and clear identifiers of fail/success. They also  internal struggle (Am I capable of X, Y, or Z?), Acquiring tangible things to succeed, such as legendary swords or mystical objects, and breaking points or points of no return.

Here are my results:

0116152258Each pink flag represents a male-centric portion of my theory.

Each orange flag is an instance of a female-centric point.

Clearly, Pendragon: The Merchant of Death fits the category of a book more popular among male readers. There are so many physical objects the protagonist Bobby Pendragon obtains and so many goals. It pretty well spelled it out for me from the beginning.

But, what surprised me was how many female points there were in the book. I had expected a few, since I don’t think a novel wholly one side or the other would fare very well, but not this many. Pendragon is faced with the expectations of being a Traveller, something that others forced upon him.

Again, I feel that I should reiterate that this isn’t about gender bias or the great big argument of gender equality. Far from it, it’s simply an identifier and a means of plot manipulation that I find fascinating. From this information, which I hope to further with more books until I have a solid body of evidence and it’s no longer a theory, I can look at my own writing and see if I need to make it more external expectations or goal oriented to maintain the audience to whom I’m trying to tell my story.

For further evidence, I figured I should make an index card for the book and tally each instance I see as I highlight them in my reading. I’m running out of flags and am too cheap to go buy more.

The next book to test my theory is Twilight, by Stephanie Meyer. No one would argue that this is a book for the ladies. So, I should be expecting to see an overwhelming amount of female-centric instances in her writing. The unknown is how much male-centric instances are going to be found in there as well.

But, I’ve got a separate theory on that, which I’ll explain when I finish the book.


2 thoughts on “Theory on Gender Themes in YA Literature: Pendragon Edition

  1. Pingback: The More Science-y Bits of Literature | Tony Graff

  2. Pingback: Gender Demographics in Literature: Twilight Edition | Tony Graff

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s