By Tate Frederick, Anni Zhang, Clara Hua, Tommy Flathers, Kartik Donepudi, and Elise Gobron, IV Form
Gender Roles at Fenway Park: Analysis of “Rain Delay” by Michelle Von Euw
Editor’s Note: All IV Form Writing & Literature classes embarked on a 30-20-30 Assessment (30 Minutes of Drafting; 20 Minutes of Peer Review; 30 Minutes of Revising & Editing) for a one-paragraph analysis of the short story “Rain Delay” by Michelle Von Euw. PROMPT: “What does “Rain Delay” have to say about gender? Focus your analysis on either Caroline or Kyle.”
Tate: The character Caroline in “Rain Delay” challenges the traditional gender roles used in literature because of her interest in sports and her boyfriend Kyle’s unreciprocated enthusiasm in their relationship.
Anni: Kyle acts as an embodiment for men in the society who are unaware of the other gender’s true feelings.
Clara: Caroline shows how females face more judgments and constraints in society than their male counterparts.
Tommy: By showing the difference between the reactions of boys and girls to their kiss, the way that “Rain Delay” is set up reveals the underlying role of gender that makes Caroline feel even more isolated than she already did.
Kartik: By giving insight into gender norms that guide Caroline’s actions, Michelle Von Euw uses Caroline’s situation in “Rain Delay” to highlight the expectation for high school girls to conform to societal standards when it comes to relationships.
Elise: By representing Caroline’s identity, the short story “Rain Delay” uses symbolism to communicate young women’s struggle of identity due to an underlying male superiority.
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The character Caroline in “Rain Delay” challenges the traditional gender roles used in literature because of her interest in sports and her boyfriend Kyle’s unreciprocated enthusiasm in their relationship. Caroline’s identity has been shaped by sports and sports teams, specifically the Red Sox. She dyes her hair red to match their colors, rants to Kyle every night about her feelings regarding the team, and has been attending games since she was young. Her interest in the team is genuine because as the game is beginning, “Her brain whirls through the batting lineup, figuring out the substitutions, happy to see her favorites” (Von Euw 97). This enjoyment separates Caroline from other stereotypical female characters because women at fictional sports events are usually present secondary to the one with the real interest, the man. Girls with a love of sports in the media usually are interested to impress the male in the story. Teenage girls in books and stories are often portrayed as “boy-obsessed.” While Caroline does sometimes conform to these standards, the corresponding attitude of her boyfriend makes her different. Kyle is the one who seems devoted and dedicated to their relationship, admitting to loving her though they have never been on a date, remembering little details about her, and being nervous to instigate the relationship. After more than a month of speaking on the phone, he tells her: “I think I’m in love with you Caroline, and I’m trying to ask you out” (Von Euw 95). To this confession, Caroline seems hesitant and less than thrilled, unlike how a teenage girl is likely to be depicted as. Later on, she reveals to feel “boxed” by their relationship. Caroline’s reluctance conveys that she is not as excited about this new relationship as Kyle is, which is the opposite of the stereotypical dynamic. The juxtaposition of this to the gender-normal reaction indicates that it is okay for men to show vulnerability, and acceptable for women to focus on non-romantic aspects of life. The reversal of stereotypical teenage qualities separates Caroline from traditional gender roles.
Kyle acts as an embodiment for men in the society who are unaware of the other gender’s true feelings. They often make assumptions and lack empathy for females. The two main characters represent different perspectives on the same scenario. Kyle inferred Caroline’s mindset and responded to it without trying to genuinely understand her. After their kiss was publicized, he was too caught up in his joy that “he doesn’t notice the look on Caroline’s face” (Von Euw 101). Caroline was already feeling very uncomfortable with him by then, but he does not notice her change and keeps pushing her further into their relationship unknowingly. He was only focusing on himself instead of trying to discern Caroline’s worries. When “He sees his future stretching ahead of him” (Von Euw 100), Caroline “Can’t imagine what lies ahead of her” (Von Euw 101). This difference of reaction demonstrates Caroline’s desperation and Kyle’s unresponsive qualities as the story ended with Caroline constantly Complying with Kyle’s ideals. He chooses to ignore Caroline’s perspective as he does not make an effort to think about the incident’s negative impacts on her. Kyle’s insensitivity represents many men in modern society as they share this common quality.
Caroline shows how females face more judgments and constraints in society than their male counterparts. Caroline’s many acts reveal her uncertainty of identity and fear of being judged by others. She “started streaking her hair last fall” (Von Euw 93) because of her uncertaintitude of individuality: streaking her hair “just makes her feel like someone” (Von Euw 93). When she went on her date, she thought that “still it seems wrong to wear clothes like this on a date” (Von Euw 97) as a result of comparing herself with the gender norms. She tries hard to follow trends in order to fit in with her peers and fulfill the societal standards set for a typical teenage girl. After being shown on TV, she “can’t see the future, can’t imagine what lies ahead of her, of them” (Von Euw 101), because she is unsure of the effect this incident has on her life. On the other hand, Kyle doesn’t have any worries and sees a clear future ahead of them. Caroline’s worrisome reaction is very different compared to that of Kyle’s. This shows how females are more anxious about others’ judgments and reactions towards their actions than males are. On a larger scale, Caroline is just one of the many females who question who they are, what they do and how they appear to others. These are troubling issues add pressure and burden to the females more often than to the males because of the difference in their standings in the society, and more awareness should be directed towards it.
By showing the difference between the reactions of boys and girls to their kiss, the way that the story is set up reveals the underlying role of gender that makes Caroline feel even more isolated than she already did. Before that fateful Red Sox game, Caroline is not sure how to see herself. She does not feel like she fits in, and she goes to great lengths to find her identity. She “started streaking her hair last fall… it made her feel like someone, like herself” (Von Euw 93). By going on a date, Caroline thinks that she would understand herself better. This, however, is not the case. Not only does she not gain self-knowledge, she also feels like she lost awareness. The day after the kiss, she thinks that she was not the person that she had been twenty-four hours earlier and feels ashamed. She feels trapped and different than she has ever felt before. When Kyle comes to meet her at her locker, she realizes that “where he sees wide-open possibilities, she sees only closing spaces” (von Euw101). She sees herself as a worse person after this event. Caroline does not think that she is the same person that she was before, and there are no pats on the back or high-fives in the hallway, like there were for Kyle, to help her through. This new identity leaves her struggling by herself in the dark, while Kyle is seen as a hero. This affects Caroline, so much so that she starts to like Kyle, just so that she would not have to go through this alone. While Kyle’s head may be higher, Caroline had to find a way to sort her new identity out by herself. This shows the difference between gender roles and how they relate to relationships.
By giving insight into gender norms that guide Caroline’s actions, Michelle Von Euw uses Caroline’s situation in “Rain Delay” to highlight the expectation for high school girls to conform to societal standards when it comes to relationships. Throughout the story, Caroline mentions that she has expectations for a relationship with Kyle, most of which she learned from watching TV shows. As the story says, “She’s read Sweet Valley High, she watches ‘One Life to Live,’ she’s heard similarly romantic stories of boys declaring their previously unrealized affections from almost every one of her friends” (Von Euw 95). In her mind, relationships should follow predetermined rules, with boys “declaring” their love and girls reciprocating emotions. This image of the perfect relationship that the media has placed in her mind creates an unrealistic expectation for Caroline and other high school girls to always be a loving partner once their partner “declares their love” (Von Euw 95). In addition, the clear differences between Caroline and Kyle’s predictions of the future of their relationship show that girls like Caroline feel they must conform to the perfect high school relationship stereotype, even if it is not what they want. As the story states, “Caroline can’t see the future, can’t imagine what lies ahead of her, of them. She doesn’t know that she won’t be boxed in by this forever” (Von Euw 101). She is unsure of what will come, and she feels uncomfortable with the idea of being “trapped” in a stereotypical relationship with Kyle. While Kyle is “caught up in his joy” and has already planned his future with Caroline, Caroline doesn’t want to be part of the relationship, but she accepts her fate because she understands the “inevitability of her future” (Von Euw 102). Von Euw finishes the story on this note, saying that Caroline’s future will always “be decided by someone other than herself, captured within his green eyes” (Von Euw 102). Her acceptance of their relationship’s inevitable outcome calls attention to the societal norm that the woman in a relationship does not have to be comfortable, as long as the man is. Overall, by mentioning how Caroline conforms to these societal norms, Von Euw uses Caroline’s actions in Rain Delay to highlight the societal standards placed on high school girls in relationships.
By representing Caroline’s identity, the short story “Rain Delay” uses symbolism to communicate young women’s struggle of identity due to an underlying male superiority. Out of all the important details in the story, Caroline’s red-streaked hair is one of the most memorable. This seemingly small part of Caroline’s character plays a much larger role in the story by serving as a symbol of her changing identity, especially due to her gender. In the beginning of the story, Caroline’s red hair is her identity. Her unique hair helps differentiate her from the myriad of people at her school, and it makes her “feel like someone, like herself” (Von Euw 93). The pressure to be someone, to have an identity, and to be recognized are important aspects of life for many young women like Caroline. This troubling issue for many young women is not made any easier by the pressure placed on them by young men. While men also experience societal pressure, it is much different. Men are expected to act in a strong and an often domineering way, and this in turn puts even more pressure on young women as young men attempt to meet society’s expectation of a normal teenage boy. At the end of the story, Caroline’s red-hair symbolizes a new concept that the identity of young women is often defined by that of men. When Caroline and Kyle’s relationship becomes public, Caroline learns that her identity is now defined by Kyle. This concept is symbolized by the narrator’s description of how Caroline’s “red streaks burn into her skull under the weight of Kyle’s hand, but she looks up him and smiles, seeing the inevitability of her future always to be decided by someone other than herself, captured within his green eyes” (Von Euw 102). What was once a symbol of her own identity is now being used against her, to re-brand her like cattle. Under the force of Kyle’s hand, Caroline, who was once known as the girl with red streaks, is now just Kyle’s girlfriend, without any say in the situation. As men and the rest of society place unwanted labels upon her, the societal pressure placed on Caroline causes her to feel out control of her own future.