Study Guide

Doll Bones Men and Masculinity

By Holly Black

Men and Masculinity

At age twelve, Zach is walking the line between boyhood and the realm of manly men. He feels a lot of pressure from his father to be a certain kind of guy in Doll Bones. See, his pops doesn't approve of Zach doing "childish" stuff like playing with toys and girls, and instead prefers for Zach to play stereotypically masculine games like basketball.

During Zach's quest with Alice and Poppy, he is haunted by his father's pressure to conform to a certain type of masculinity. He thinks he should be the girls' protector… but he doesn't really fulfill that role so well. If anything, he heightens the danger they're in by doing rash things like stealing a boat he doesn't know how to operate. Importantly, it's when Zach allows himself to behave in ways that are traditionally labeled as feminine—particularly crying—that he finally comes to terms with the trauma of losing his toys.

Questions About Men and Masculinity

  1. Do you think that Zach will be like his father when he grows up? Why or why not? How is he already similar and different to him?
  2. What might have been changed if Zach's fights with his father were written from his father's point of view? In fact, go ahead and rewrite one of their fights from his dad's point of view and explain why you made the decisions you did.
  3. Do you think that Zach's relationship with his father will improve over time? Why or why not?

Chew on This

Doll Bones explores the limits of gender norms.

The single most important relationship in Doll Bones is the one between Zach and his dad.

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