By M. Gallagher
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Extra resources for Action Figures: Men, Action Films, and Contemporary Adventure Narratives
In works such as Into Thin Air and Robinson Crusoe, male achievement is measured through sheer fortitude. Unlike the wartime scenarios of Rambo or The Iliad, in which characters defend home or country and contribute to some social good, Into Thin Air narrates physical trials that serve no practical purpose. In a New York Times Book Review parody, Margalit Fox calls attention to the frivolousness of real-adventure literature’s subject matter and its characters’ deliberate flirtations with disaster.
The combination of mountain-literature excerpts, Sherpa lore, and physical description contributes to the theme of adventure as determinant of male identity. References to earlier explorers and chroniclers link Krakauer’s book to the substantial corpus of male exploration literature. Allusions to Nepalese spirituality and folklore lend cultural-historical weight and purpose to the climbers’ efforts. The varied associations partly protect the expeditions from the charge of leisure-class frivolity.
For these men, the narrowing or elimination of traditional arenas of gender-identity formation produces anxiety and frustration. Just as Taske’s earlier military training furnishes a male identity within a group, arduous adventure pursuits supply a concrete, individual goal. The achievement of this goal contributes significantly to a public and private index of male achievement. As Into Thin Air demonstrates, even intangible achievements such as the experience of danger can burnish masculinity.
Action Figures: Men, Action Films, and Contemporary Adventure Narratives by M. Gallagher