Study Guide

His Girl Friday Gender


WALTER: I wish you hadn't done that, Hildy... Divorce me. Makes a fellow lose all faith in himself... Almost gives him a feeling he wasn't wanted.

HILDY: Oh, now look, junior, that's what divorces are for.

Walter presents divorce not as sad because he lost the love of his life, but as a blow to his self-esteem. In His Girl Friday, love is presented as a struggle—and especially as a struggle, on Walter's part, for manhood. Can the super-smooth alpha male keep his position as super-smooth alpha male, or will he end up losing out to Bruce Baldwin, of all people? The film is as much about Walter's effort to be a man as about Hildy's to be a woman.

WALTER: You can marry all you want to, Hildy, but you can't quit the newspaper business.

HILDY: Oh! Why not?

WALTER: I know you, Hildy. I know what quitting would mean to you.

HILDY: And what would it mean?

WALTER: It would kill ya.

HILDY: You can't sell me that, Walter Burns.

WALTER: Who says I can't? You're a newspaperman.

HILDY: That's why I'm quitting. I want to go someplace where I can be a woman.

WALTER: You mean be a traitor.

HILDY: A traitor? A traitor to what?

WALTER: A traitor to journalism. You're a journalist, Hildy.

Being a newspaperman (not a newspaperwoman, note) is contrasted with being a woman. Both Walter and Hildy seem to think there's a disconnect between being a woman and having a career. This is perhaps the root of Hildy's misery; if she, and those around her, could admit that women can have careers, she woudn't be so torn up about it.

HILDY: He doesn't treat me like an errand boy, but like a woman.

WALTER: How did I treat you? Like a water buffalo?

Walter treats Hildy often as a subordinate or errand boy, rather than as a wife or a lover. It doesn't occur to Walter that he could treat her as an equal; the best he can come up with, instead, is to treat her as a water buffalo.

HILDY: There was never anything to brag about. Now look, Bruce. I'll go back and change and dress. And after you get the check, you phone me. I'll be in the pressroom of the Criminal Courts Building. Oh Walter!

Hildy is under time pressure; she needs to write the story and then make her train. But she still is going to go change clothes, from her feminine attire to a plainer newspaper outfit. Mixing the two roles— wife and worker—just isn't done; they have to be kept separate.

BRUCE: You just don't love me... The point is that you never intended to be decent and live like a human being.

Bruce is feeling sorry for himself—and while feeling sorry for himself, he tells Hildy that as long as she focuses on her career, she can't be decent, and can't even be a human being. A woman with a career is outlandish and inhuman, to Bruce. Walter is kind of a stinker, but right at this moment, he looks better than the competition.

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