Literary Models of Manhood: Forming a Foundational Understanding of Healthy Masculinity

Walker, Reynolds C.
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How are we to understand healthy masculinity? My thesis attempts to answer this question and redirect the current debate about masculinity in our culture from its focus on toxic masculinity to the more productive topic of healthy masculinity by analyzing literary models of manhood. I begin with Tom Wolfe’s novel A Man in Full, which provides an accurate depiction of toxic masculinity, and highlight the significance of moral formation for the production of healthy men. In C. S. Lewis’ The Abolition of Man and J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, I find healthy masculinity requires men to pursue moral formation through virtue, specifically, the virtues of honesty, humility, courage, and prudence. In turn, I discover that these virtues promote emotional vulnerability, the formation of true friendship, and the acceptance of responsibility, which each proves essential for healthy masculinity. In this way, my thesis seeks to offer a fundamental framework for men’s moral formation that will guard men against toxic masculinity and allow them to flourish under a renewed masculinity.

Masculinity, Literature, Ethics, Virtue, Toxic masculinity, Healthy masculinity, Friendship