Artists and authors during ancient Rome and the Renaissance sexualized women through depictions of nudity in art and literature, harming womenís position in society. Men considered women beneath them and this objectification in art caused further suffering. Men in ancient times and the Renaissance possessed more power and respect from their gender status. Menís power only intensified because of how art portrayed women as one dimensional; their beauty was paramount. The nudity in art during these two time periods did not allow women to be seen as more than just their bodies; it pigeonholed them and did not give them the opportunity to prove they were equal to men. Women possessed rights; the majority of powerful men denied women the dignity of basic rights. Men rejected womenís right to vote, handle money, or hold political power. The few women who took a role in public office served only as figureheads; men spoke on their behalf in court. Women were expected to be seen, often as nude figures in art, but not heard.
In Neil Gaiman's novels, women are portrayed differently Ė not inferior to men but as strong individuals who guide the protagonists through troubled times and push them towards greatness. Fear affects everyone differently even shaking a personís faith in themselves. However, the overall message of Gaimanís work is that by facing oneís fears, a person can establish a stronger sense of self-worth. The young narrator of The Ocean at the End of the Lane, for instance, is faced with a supernatural being that enters his household posing as a nanny, threatening his physical safety and gaining complete control over his family. Lacking strength to stand up to this creature, the narrator lands in a life threatening situation, until he meets Lettie Hempstock. Young Lettie helps the narrator to build his confidence by modeling real courage as she stands up to the paranormal caregiver, risking her life to save his. Ultimately, the narrator and Lettie defeat the nanny together, and although he is left with no memory of the event, the experience enables the narratorís discovery of his own courage.
Major Works Consulted:
Editors of Time-Life Books. What Life Was Like When Rome Ruled the World. Time-Life, 1997.
Neil Gaiman. Curiosity Quills Press. https://curiosityquills.com/neil-gaiman-and-american-gods/.
Gaiman, Neil. Anansi Boys. New York: HarperCollins, 2005.
---. The Ocean at the End of the Lane. New York: HarperCollins, 2013.
Sonneborn, Liz. Pompeii Unearthing Ancient Worlds. Minneapolis, MN: Twenty-First Century, 2008.