Study Guide

Alanna: The First Adventure Gender

By Tamora Pierce

Gender

The truth was, she didn't feel worthy of being someone's squire. She was a girl, and she was a liar. (6.274)

Being a girl in a man's world is tough. Having to lie about her gender in order to even have a chance at proving herself and achieving her goals is a bit of a mind-trip for Alanna: she feels bad enough for being a girl, and then she feels even worse for lying about it. Yikes. Someone get this girl some therapy, stat.

She lay down after he left. Tears forced themselves from her eyes. This wouldn't have happened to a real boy. (3.85)

We don't mean to interrupt Alanna's little pity party, but news flash: "real" boys get beat up too. Alanna is just insecure about the fact that she has to hide part of her identity from her peers; it makes her feel like she's cheating. As she finds out in the book, though, being able to dish it out and take isn't necessarily related to her gender.

Suddenly she froze before her long mirror. Watching the glass closely, she bounced up and down. Her chest moved. It wasn't much, but she had definitely jiggled. (5.3-4)

Doh. There goes that stupid biology, doing its thing! Alanna's boy disguise requires her to, well, not have breasts, so she has to start binding her chest in order to continue passing as a dude. Too bad they don't have sports bras in Tortall.

Again Mistress Cooper raised her eyebrows. "You're a female, child, no matter what clothing you wear. You must become accustomed to that." (6.43)

Alanna is experiencing some, shall we say, dissonance regarding her identity. Wise mistress Cooper advises Alanna to make her peace with her gender.

"D'you think I want to be a lady? … 'Walk slowly, Alanna,'" she said primly. "'Sit still, Alanna. Shoulders back, Alanna.' As if that's all I can do with myself!" (1.5)

From Alanna's mocking descriptions, we can infer that being a noble lady in Tortall is as boring as waiting for YouTube videos to load—without all the wacky comments to pass the time.

The desert people were hard riders and relentless fighters. They hid their women in goatskin tents. (7.4)

Alanna notices that Bazhir women tend to stay out of the public eye. This is obviously different in the rest of Tortall, since Alanna observes women in the marketplace in the capital city, and stuff like that. It's a good think Alanna wasn't born in that culture—we're having a hard time imagining her staying confined in a tent.

Coram had been trained as a blacksmith, but he had once been one of the best of the King's foot soldiers…Now he wanted to be with the King's soldiers again, but not if they were going to laugh at him because he had a weakling for a master. (1.73)

Newsflash: patriarchy hurts men and women. To Coram, it's so important to be tough and warriorlike that he's actually embarrassed by Thom. Further, Coram worries that his young charge will embarrass him by not living up to everyone's standards for masculine warriorness. Turns out that rigid gender roles trap for everyone.

The one called Ylira laughed scornfully as Alanna tried to cover herself with her hands. "A girl who hopes to protect her prince? A jest indeed!" (7.126)

The Ysandir are not very progressive in their attitude toward gender. You'd think since they're, like, ancient that they'd also be wise…but nope, it's inconceivable to them that Alanna could protect anyone. We're glad that she goes on to whoop them in a magical battle.

"But I thought I'd raised ye with somethin' to ye. I didn't think I was bringing up another soft noble lady—" "I'm not a soft noble lady!" Alanna cried. (2.147)

Coram calling Alanna a "soft noble lady" obviously strikes a nerve. She thinks of herself as tough in a way that most noble girls are not: she can use a bow to hunt, she can ride a horse, all that good stuff. In short, she is a special unique snowflake. Aren't we all?

A week ago she would have told him to pick Geoffrey or Douglass. But she had not been to the Black City then. She had not proved to the Ysandir that a girl could be one of the worst enemies they would ever face. (7.259)

By the very end of the book, Alanna is feeling a lot more confident about herself. She was going tell Jonathan to pick someone else for his squire, but now she realizes that she is a totally rockin' candidate despite the fact that she's a girl. Aw. Our little girl is all grown up.