264 Unca: Gender will not be my weakness

Kyle Cipollone


“I now expected my own destiny; and soon it arrived. The captain, who had left the cabin, to dispose of his prisoners, returned, and once more asked me if I would sign the bond? I answered, no” (64).

Through her experiences, Unca Winkfield illustrates her defiance to male domination in The Female American. She mirrors the strength of her mother in this story, A native American woman who saved Unca’s father from death, and stood up against her own sister. In the quote above, Unca is forced to either marry the son the captain sailing them back to England, or be stranded on a desolate island. Showing her own strength, she refuses, knowing very well that she may not survive on the island.

This book takes place in a time of male dominance, where men were in control of everything, and owned everything. That can be said for the European settlers who came to the Americas. But at the beginning of the story, readers are given insight on a Native American tribe, where females seemed to play a much larger role. Unca’s mother alone had the power to keep her father from being beheaded, and her aunt, Alucca, even had many males at her disposal when she attempted to poison Edward Winkfield. Unca’s aunt Alucca eventually takes the throne when Unca’s grandfather the king, passes way, showing that in a native American society, females could take control.

It seems that male dominance is a foreign idea to the natives, and Unca displays that through her defiance of male power in the story. Another moment of strength she shows comes earlier in the book when Unca sails back to her father’s plantation with her cousin John Winkfield.

“I gravely told him I would never marry any man who could not use a bow and arrow as well as I could” (60).

This passage could describe Unca’s refusal as a sign that she desires a man who is very masculine compared to her. It could mean that she sees many European men as un-masculine because they don’t use a bow and arrow, compared to Native American men who do. It could also propose that she sees herself as a stronger figure compared to other men who can’t shoot a bow and arrow.

Through these passages we can observe this: Unca doesn’t take gender into account when she considers the strength of a human being. She sees herself as being just as strong as any man she meets. Male dominance doesn’t play a large role in Native American society.


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The Open Anthology of Earlier American Literature: A PSU-Based Project Copyright © 2016 by Kyle Cipollone is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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