Study Guide

I Know This Much is True Men and Masculinity

By Wally Lamb

Men and Masculinity

"It was all that namby-pamby stuff… All that 'Thomas my little bunny rabbit' stuff she used to say to him all the time." (3.122)

Ray believes that Ma's feminine affection toward Thomas makes him soft. Maybe if she whacked him upside the head now and then (Ray's method of parenting), Thomas would be tougher.

It's part of the con down there, see? Guys are supposed to fantasize about the instructors. It's good for business. (7.6)

The health club where Joy works capitalizes on the masculine tendency to think with… something other than their brain.

No wife of his was going to clean toilets for strangers. (8.11)

Ray subscribes to the 1950s rules of being a husband, like that a man is less of a man if his wife has to work. It's not because he doesn't want his wife to have to work a tough job, it's that others will see Ray as less of a man if he can't provide for his family on his own.

"My supervisor is Dr. Barry Farber." "And where's he at?" "Dr. Farber's at a conference in Florida. She's delivering a speech there. […] Funny thing about professional women these days, isn't it? The world is crawling with them." (9.127)

Dominick naturally assumes that Dr. Barry Farber is a man, and Sheffer turns that around on him as though he's chauvinistic for assuming that. This may be true, but we might have done the same thing—her name is Barry, which is most commonly a male nickname.

"What is it with you guys and the 'L' word, anyway?" (9.205)

No, not the Showtime show, but LUV. Dominick, as a big macho manly man, has a hard time saying I love you to his brother, and Lisa Sheffer gives him guff for it. She's a good guff giver.

Thomas wanted to bury [the squirrel] and have a funeral, but Ray told him to stop the sissy stuff. (10.2)

For Ray, any sort of compassion, whether it be for human or animal, is feminine, which thereby means it makes a man less of a man to express these feelings.

"Well, 'he' or 'she' is not as grave a matter with the gods as it is with us mere mortals." (15.10)

Dr. Patel uses Hindu gods and mythology to try to convince Dominick to drop the male/female binary attitude he's inherited from Ray and lives his life by.

"Grief has no gender." (15.172)

Dominick is big on the whole boys don't cry thing, but Dr. Patel tries to tell him that, dude, it's okay to cry. It's okay to grieve, no matter who you are.

Male heirs are the greatest gifts a woman can bestow! (31.10)

Misogyny goes way back in Dominick's family. His grandfather believes that women are property and that daughters are pretty much useless, which explains a lot of Ma's insecurities.

"It might be worth our while to examine why you equate sensitivity—vulnerability—with homosexuality." (36.91)

Dominick equates vulnerability with homosexuality because Ray seemed to, like when he called Thomas "sissy" for not liking basketball. Dominick's masculinity issues make him both misogynistic and homophobic.