Towards Manhood by Benjamin Law
In Towards Manhood by Benjamin Law we have the theme of masculinity, change, identity, sexuality, shame and acceptance. Taken from his The Family Law collection the story is narrated in the first person by Law himself and it becomes clear to the reader from the beginning of the story that Law may be exploring the theme of masculinity. As a child Law did not consider himself to be masculine. He knew he was gay but that he looked girly physically. Even one girl tells him that he has a figure, if he had breasts, that she would like to have. If anything this body dysphoria that Law is experiencing is very normal for young people when they go through puberty. Bodies change and eventually through weight training Law’s body does change into what he believes to be something more masculine.
The theme of identity is evident in the story with the narrator being afraid to tell others, like his mother, that he is gay. However there is a positive to this for Law. He suggests that people would not consider him to be Asian and gay but rather as a foreigner. Acting differently through cultural differences. The theme of shame is also explored through music. Law likes Mariah Carey and considers her songs to have profound meaning. While his friend James tells him that he should be listening to other music instead. Music that is masculine and not as girlish as Mariah Carey. The fact that the narrator is wearing Mango shorts also brings a degree of shame when James questions Law’s sexuality. Law at this stage had not come out as being gay.
There may be other symbolism in the story which might be important. The significance of family and sexuality as an example. It is clear that Andrew is heterosexual and even goes as far as questioning Law about being a man. When Law is fighting him. It may also be a case that Law, through his mother’s love, is exploring the theme of acceptance. If anything Law’s mother accepts him, unconditionally, for who he is. A young gay man. The food and protein that Law consumes post puberty could be important as the food could represent Law’s strong desire to be more masculine. Though there are side effects, like passing wind, that disturbs Law’s sister Tammy and his boyfriend Scott. Though ironically it pleases Law that he is being disgusting as he himself calls it. For by being so he is acting as a male might act. A male as defined by Law.
Throughout the story there has been a sense that Law has been uncomfortable with his body. However by the end of the story Law accepts himself for who he is. He is comfortable in his own skin. In fact the shame that Law had felt as a young teenager has disappeared and Law is openly and proudly gay and Asian. He accepts himself for who he is despite spending his teenage years concerned that he might not be considered masculine by others. If anything Law is telling the reader that it is okay to be different and not be stereotypical in anyway. It is okay and acceptable to be different to others. The important thing is to like yourself.