Study Guide

The Golem and the Jinni Gender

By Helene Wecker


There are dozens of ways for a person who is new to the city to find a role to fit into. People organize themselves by culture, by religion, by profession, and within all of these, people fit into roles by gender, too, especially in 1899, when The Golem and the Jinni is set.

The gender differences in this era are even more pronounced than in an episode of Mad Men. Not only are women mostly working service positions—clerk, baker, tailor—but they can't even go for a walk by themselves, and especially not with a man. That would just be scandalous.

The title characters seem to be created to be the epitome of the gender norms of the time. The Golem is submissive and wants to serve, the Jinni is impulsive, aggressive, and a wee bit promiscuous. Because of this, the two kind of balance each other out, even if they are pretty stereotypical gender-wise.

Questions About Gender

  1. How do the Golem and the Jinni adhere to the gender norms of the day? How do they defy them? Give examples.
  2. How do you think the Golem would be different if she were male? Or if the Jinni were female? Why?
  3. How have gender norms changed since the time depicted in the novel? How have they remained the same? Be specific.

Chew on This

The Golem isn't strictly defined by female gender norms; she also possesses more brute strength than any male.

The Jinni doesn't care for gender norms either, or any human norms. He believes that a person should act however he, or she, wants to act.