The Great Leapfrog Race

The world is made up of many different people. Each of these individuals fall into a category, whether it be judged by their gender, the sports they play or the bands they listen to. For each different class, we have certain expectations for the people in them. The story, ‘The Great Leapfrog Race’ both reflects and challenges gender and class expectations. ‘The Great Leapfrog Race’, goes against the patriarchal western view that men are superior to women. The idea that men are the dominant force has been widely accepted in civilized cultures, and has only now, over the past couple of decades, has it been challenged.

In ‘The Great Leapfrog Race’, this is reflected when the female, Rosie, beats the male, Rex, in a game of leapfrog. It is repeated again when the author writes that ‘Rosie whipped every boy she fought’. This shows that she is the superior of the group, and so is the dominant force. However this does not mean that the boys accept it. The story reads that ‘it was very humiliating to be hurt by Rosie’, and so the reader assumes that these boys have been brought up with the patriarchal view that men are superior to women.

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The gender expectations in this instance have been challenged by the story. The writer has written this story, presumably from his own experience. This would infer to the reader that he was brought up in a feministic environment. The general feeling of the story stands to prove this. Although we have no information on the author, the use of gaps and silences in which we make our own assumptions, lead the reader to believe that his own influences in growing up, have had some bearing on this story.

The author may have been brought up in a single sex home, most likely to be female; his father may have left when he was a child; or he may have been taught to treat females as equals through some other means. No matter how, it still shows the author reflects his experiences and his gender expectations into the story. There are three main classes in society. Upper class consists of kings and queens and other royalty such as presidents and sultans.

Middle class is composed of bureaucrats, and the working class is comprised of cleaners, labourers and other ”lower class citizens ‘. Each of these classes are defined by money, success, or job status. All of these different standards were invented by society to unofficially class everybody into their importance in the world. Rosie comes under the latter category of working class, as her father is a bricklayer. Another way that we recognise that she is working class is by the language used to describe Rosie.

In the first paragraph, she is said to be a ‘tough little Irish kid’ who ‘wore a turtle-neck sweater, usually red’. This suggest that she either did not care much for her appearance, or was used to going without pretty dresses and clothes that other children her age would like and normally wear but that her father could not afford. The story also says that they lived in ‘slum neighbourhood’s which are often portrayed as the beginning for much violence and crime. Society perceives children from working class families as being able to hold themselves, and being streetwise.

Kids from the slums learn from a young age that this is the sort of world they are going to live in for the rest of their lives. These are the children more likely to shoplift and break into houses because their parents’ jobs do not provide for them as well. Girls from these sort of neighbourhoods are expected to be dirty and impolite, whereas middle class girls would turn their nose up at such antics as playing ‘leapfrog’ and would much prefer play with their Barbie dolls than play with a group of filthy little boys.

It would be a contradiction of our class expectations for Rosie to be concerned over her appearance or how many kids Barbie and Ken have, because of her status as a working class girl. This story reflects societies views on class expectations of the working class, by letting Rosie be a tough little girl, not someone socially adept or worried over how long her nails were, but only interested in rough and tumble ‘tomboyish’ activities as is expected for working class girls. Rex Folger comes from a middle class family.

This is obvious from the first moment his character enters the story. The story states that ‘he was a natural born leader’, he had beaten all the boys in the neighbourhood ‘without any noticeable ill feeling, pride or ambition’, and he was also a ‘powerful and superior boy’. All these things suggest, as well as the fact that he was from Texas, one of the southern states of the USA, notorious for it’s uppity behaviour, that he is a middle class child. He has all the natural ability that a middle class child ‘should’ have.

Politeness was one of his strong points, even the other boys in the neighbourhood had to give him that much. After a fight started between Rex and Rosie, he declined to hit her as he was taught that hitting women was the equivalent of boxing his mother. That is another example in itself of him being middle class, as he said he was taught this rather than he believed it, which shows his educational ability off, at the same time as not really showing him his real feelings on the subject.

This story gives off a realistic picture of middle class society and what we expect of them, using Rex as a symbolic figure for the majority of the middle class. The female is seen as a lower class compared to the male as we established earlier. The patriarchal ideology is that males are dominant and logical whereas females should be timid, emotional and passive. In the story, the boys of the neighbourhood feel badly that Rosie is the one doing the dirty work so to speak and teaching Rex a lesson, when they believe that it is a mans duty to do such things.

The background of the reader influences whether you sympathise with Rosie or Rex in the story. The readers’ views on certain issues including women in politics and equal rights can have an impact on their reading of the story. By leaving gaps in the storyline, the person reading the story is left to make assumptions based on their knowledge and experiences and so each reader will most probably read the story differently, therefore, each person reading it will have their background somewhere influencing their thoughts on the subject.

This demonstrates how each person’s individual views reflect societies opinions through the story. ‘The Great Leapfrog Race’ is a very interesting story about a little Irish tomboy, working class child named Rosie Mahoney. It tells the story of a little girl who beats the new kid-on-the-block, big bully Rex Folger, in a game called leapfrog. But the story isn’t as simple as that. It also has a deeper meaning. It reflects society.

Societies attitudes towards different people, from different classes and genders. It challenges the patriarchal ideology by letting female triumph over male. It uses all sorts of techniques to make the reader see that not everything that society sets out in it’s unofficial guidelines are correct. Roles can be reversed and women can prevail over men in many circumstances. This story reflects as well as challenges society views on gender and class role expectations.

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Sarah
Danielle
Wilson
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