Alternative realities: the absence of men and the quest for autonomy in female Hobo narratives

Parsons, Abigail (2005) Alternative realities: the absence of men and the quest for autonomy in female Hobo narratives. Masters thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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This work begins by offering a definition of the hobo, a character found throughout sociological and literary study, and frequently gendered as male. I have provided an overview of the male hobo as he is most commonly portrayed in studies and literature, whilst characterising the nature of his movement and drawing on specific textual accounts about or by hoboes. I have aimed to rectif', in part, the critical blindness that has ensured his female counterpart has been almost entirely written out of history, by highlighting possible reasons for her invisibility. Additionally, I have performed two close textual analyses of hobo narratives that deal explicitly with female transience in order to further locate her in a genre of hobo writings. Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping and Barbara Kingsolver's The Bean Trees feature female protagonists who move beyond the domestic sphere to pursue a life of transience. This work has focused on the subtext of gender performance in both texts
by analysing the degree to which traditional gender roles and the manipulation of them can both inform and effect the female hobo's movement. Particular attention has been paid to the ways in which they deviate from the socially expected roles of
housewife and mother, and the extent to which their performance of masculinities sees them rejected from social acceptability and permitted entry into the traditionally male domain of the road space. I have also discussed the female hobo's construction of alternative spaces in which she can perform a deviant gender identity. Where appropriate, this work has drawn on wider literary and sociological examples of hobo writing and study, in order to locate the female hobo in the wider context of a typically male hobo history.

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