Study Guide

The Art of Fielding Men & Masculinity

By Chad Harbach

Men & Masculinity

"[Mike] loves Henry. They talk on the phone all day long, like lovebirds." (2.35)

Henry's family has no problem with him talking to Mike "like lovebirds," but they take issue when Henry ends up with Owen, who is gay, as a roommate. Why is this?

[Henry] knew what was happening in there, however vaguely. It sounded painful, at least for one of the parties involved. (4.1)

This paragraph introduces the first of many scenes that plays up the homoeroticism of a sports locker room. The characters Henry is eavesdropping on are lifting weights, but with lines like "Yeah, baby. Just like that" and "You're big," you'd think they were doing something else.

"Remember when it was easy to be a man? Now we're all supposed to look like Captain Abercrombie here. Six-pack abs, three percent body fat. All that crap." (4.32)

Mike's strange complaint here makes it seem like it's hard for him to be a man these days. Is there anything that suggests Mike has a difficult time at life because he's male?

You yelled and threw things and pounded on your locker, in anguish or joy. You hugged your teammate, or b****ed him out, or punched him in the face. (12.21)

Men in this book seem to show all their emotions in the same way—by hitting something, or someone, whether they're happy or sad. (If you're feeling any emotion and you know it, punch a wall—*punch punch*.)

"The book has very little to do with homosexuality per se. It's more about the cult of male friendship in nineteenth-century America. Boys' clubs, whale boats, baseball teams." (27.27)

This is a little bit of a self-referential statement. Could you say the same thing about The Art of Fielding (the actual novel, not the book-within-a-book) that Pella is saying about the fictional book-within-a-book, The Sperm Squeezers?

If Sarah X. Pessel hadn't been a girl, Henry might have socked her in the face. (29.121)

We're not sure if we believe this, because Henry is one of the exceptions to the male-anger rule in this book. He doesn't ever fight anyone, having a tendency to turn on himself. Is that a masculine or a feminine trait?

It was embarrassing, having your girlfriend provide for you. (33.20)

Poor Mike. As we said, he has such a hard time being male and is humiliated when Pella picks up the tab for dinner. How will he ever survive?

"Man only plays when in the full meaning of the word he is a man. And he is only completely a man when he plays." (46.32)

The men on the baseball team are unable to separate the sport from what they believe is the sheer force of masculinity required to play it. If anyone had to quit the team, say because of injury, would he be thought of as less of a man?

"It's my take on a Long Island Iced Tea. Kind of nudging it toward the more masculine end of the spectrum." (60.14)

Even drinks are gendered in the world of The Art of Fielding. What makes a drink a macho drink or a girly drink?

Men were such odd creatures. They didn't duel anymore, even fistfights had come to seem barbaric, the old casual violence all channeled through institutions now, but they still loved to uphold their ancient codes. (80.2)

Maybe there is something to the "baseball = macho" dynamic portrayed in the book. Baseball is like a legal, civilized duel—the evolution of gladiator matches to the death. Losers are bested by their more masculine opponents, but they at least live to fight again another day, and maybe redeem their manliness.