Study Guide

A Year Down Yonder Women and Femininity

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Women and Femininity

The main characters in A Year Down Yonder are women to be reckoned with—Mary Alice Dowdel and her larger-than-life grandmother, Grandma Dowdel. Though the story takes place in the late 1930s and early 1940s, when gender roles and norms were pretty stringent, the Dowdel women don't let social expectations hold them down.

Grandma Dowdel is constantly dressing up in her late husband's clothes and doing things like shooting guns and trapping foxes, even though most women in town are wearing skirts and hosting tea parties. And Mary Alice is determined to make something of herself without the need for a man. She ends up snagging a reporter gig in Chicago after she graduates. You go, girl!

Questions About Women and Femininity

  1. Why doesn't Grandma Dowdel seem to care about her appearance or dressing up?
  2. Would getting all dolled up and putting on make-up like Carleen make Mary Alice more attractive to Royce McNabb? Why or why not?
  3. How does Grandma Dowdel's idea of femininity and a woman's place impact Mary Alice as she grows up?

Chew on This

Through living with Grandma Dowdel, Mary Alice comes to see that being a woman isn't all about being ornamental—and that women can be just as strong (if not more so) than men.

Mary Alice and Grandma Dowdel are able to have a huge impact on the people in their small not in spite of being women, but because of it.

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