Study Guide

The Man in the High Castle Gender

By Philip K. Dick

Gender

Right now I'm nothing, but if I can swing this, then maybe I can get Juliana back. I know what she wants—she deserves to be married to a man who matters, an important person in the community, not some meshuggener. Men used to be men, in the old days; before the war for instance. But all that's gone now. (4.82)

We've previously noted that "Frank" isn't exactly a self-starter. He's not the kind of guy who comes up with a plan for a new business (see "Themes: Strength and Skill"). But there is one thing that motivates him and that's the thought of Juliana. Notice how his idea of getting her back (by becoming important) is tied up with some wackadoo historical idea that "Men used to be men." Ugh. This might be a hint that he's not thinking about Juliana correctly.

"According to this Abelson," Wyndam-Matson broke in. He glanced at the girl beside him. God, they read a book, he thought, and they spout on forever. (5.57)

Wyndam-Matson may be on a date with one of the smarter characters in this book. After all, Rita has a whole (mostly correct) idea of how history should go. And yet this guy isn't really interested in her mind or her ideas. Note also how he makes a huge generalization about how "they spout on forever." This may be W-M's POV, but he comes off worse than Rita does.

I wish I had never let him come with me, she thought. And now it's too late; I know I can't get rid of him—he's too strong.

Something terrible is happening, she thought. Coming out of him. And I seem to be helping it. (6.127-8)

We spend more time with Juliana than with any other female character, so we have to be careful when we read about her. Is this a comment about the relation between men and women in general? Or is this just a comment about Juliana and Joe in particular? So here, Juliana sees something bad happening with Joe and takes some blame for it with that final "I seem to be helping it." Is this because Juliana blames herself first? Or because women learn to blame themselves first in this 1960s?

If Juliana were here, he thought, she could stroll in there and do it without batting an eye; she's pretty, she can talk to anybody on earth, and she's a woman. After all, this is women's jewelry. She could wear it into the store. Shutting his eyes, he tried to imagine how she would look with one of their bracelets on. Or one of their large silver necklaces. With her black hair and her pale skin, doleful, probing eyes… wearing a gray jersey sweater, a little bit too tight, the silver resting against her bare flesh, metal rising and falling as she breathed…

God, she was vivid in his mind, right now. Every piece they made, the strong, thin fingers picked up, examined; tossing her head back, holding the piece high. Juliana sorting, always a witness to what he had done. (9.16-7)

Yeah, this is a long quote, but we just wanted to make the point that Frank spends a lot of time thinking about and imagining Juliana. If she never showed up in this book, we'd still want to call her a major character. Frank may think that Juliana isn't so smart (1.76), but she's still the ultimate judge in his mind, the "witness" to what he's accomplished.

Hell, I wouldn't even take the pictures. We'd get a professional photographer to do it. That would please her. Her vanity probably as great as always. She always liked people to look at her, admire her; anybody. I guess most women are like that. They crave attention all the time. They're very babyish that way. (9.19)

We take a lot of shots at Childan for his racism, so maybe it's time to tear up Frank Frink for his sexism. How often does he start out saying "Juliana is…" and end up saying "All women are…"? Maybe this is a good time to point out that Frank has no interactions with any women in this book. It's usually easier to generalize if you don't actually have to deal with the people you're stereotyping.

"Only a woman knows the social conventions," Joe said, carrying her back and dropping her to bounce frighteningly on the bed. "Without a woman we'd discuss racing cars and horses and tell dirty jokes; no civilization." (9.88)

And then again, maybe it's pretty easy to stereotype people even if you are interacting with them. Here's Joe explaining to Juliana that women have a civilizing effect on men. Women are the keepers of social conventions, like manners or not dropping people. Now think about whom he's telling this to: a judo instructor who wanders around America and considers suicide. Is this the most socially conventional woman he could find?

Every man yearns to have a really well-dressed woman before he dies, even if he has to buy her the clothes himself. This binge is probably Joe Cinnadella's lifelong ambition. (9.96)

After all those "all women are like this" comments from Frank and Joe, it's almost nice to get a "all men are like this" comment from Juliana. Those other comments don't seem to be all that accurate. (See the quote just above for an example.) And by the end of the book, we know this is wrong. Joe's lifelong ambition isn't to have a well-dressed woman, but to kill Hawthorne Abendsen. Can you see the slight difference?

As Joe shut the door, Juliana said, "How did you know a new white shirt can't be worn until it's pressed?"

He said nothing; he shrugged.

"I had forgotten," Juliana said. "And a woman ought to know... when you take them out of the cellophane they're all wrinkled." (13.56-8)

"A woman ought to know"? One of the most dangerous things about stereotypes is how they can infect the person being stereotyped. So here, Juliana seems to be saying that she's failed as a woman because she forgot about men's dress shirts. As if she judges herself according to how well she serves men. Yeesh. For another example, see Ed accusing Frank of accepting Nazi ideas about Jews (4.38).

Her smile increased. She had perfect white regular teeth; Irish, Juliana decided. Only Irish blood could give that jawline such femininity. "Let me take your purse and coat. This is a very good time for you; these are a few friends. What a lovely dress... it's House of Cherubini, isn't it?" (15.63)

According to The Man in the High Castle, women don't talk to each other a lot. Or at all. Really, the major scene featuring two women is the final one, when Juliana crashes a Hawthorne party and talks to (and upsets) Caroline. Juliana and Caroline eventually talk about big issues of "fate" and reality, but look at this first meeting, where it's all about how feminine Caroline looks and how she instantly recognizes Juliana's dress. Is this all women are for in this book? (If this interests you, check out the Bechdel Test.)

"I understand what's going on in your mind," Juliana said. To her it was the old and familiar expression on a man's face, but it did not upset her to see it here. She no longer felt as she once had. "The Gestapo file said you're attracted to women like me." (15.97)

We've seen a lot of guys look or think about Juliana in this book, from Frank to the truck drivers—and now, to Hawthorne. But we pulled this quote not because it shows how many men treat Juliana as a pretty face (rather than as a source of enlightenment); we pulled it because of how it paints Hawthorne as a guy whose desires can be catalogued. (In this case, by the German secret police.) Here's the flip-side of stereotyping. When Hawthorne thinks about women only in terms of sex and attraction, his own desires can be catalogued. Who knows, maybe next time the SS will send a beautiful woman assassin?

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