Time of the Temptress Paper 1
Feb. 19, 1998
Sexual Roles in Time of the Temptress
Violet Winspear’s Time of the Temptressmay not be considered a literary masterpiece by many critics,but it does give a specific example of male dominant and femalesubmissive sexual roles. Even though the novel contains no explicitor even implied sexual scenes occurring between the main characters,the actions and speech of Wade and Eve serve as a substitute forerotic passages.
Eve is labeled as an obvious submissivecharacter as soon as she was introduced in the novel. She appearsas a helpless woman in the company of nuns. Nuns might be consideredsome of the purest and most vulnerable creatures alive, secondonly to children. Her affiliation with these women imply thatshe is innocent and as helpless as they. Eve and the nuns areat the mercy of the brave warrior who rescued them from theirmission. When Eve volunteers to walk across the jungle, evenher act of courage seems weak. ” ‘Please’-Eve caught onimpulse at the khaki-clad arm, ‘if room can be found for SisterMercy and the others , then I am sure I can trek the rest of theway’ ” (6). She asks, or begs, for permission to make asacrifice, and through out the novel she never stops apologizingfor it.
Before they begin their trek, Eve becomesquickly furious with the man who saved her and she declares thatshe is “not helpless” (12). In spite of her outburst,the rest of the novel makes her out to be anything but helpful. For example, she cannot bathe without a monkey stealing her Bondstreet apparel. It is impossible for her to search for them naked,and to top it all off, the fearless Wade O’Mara has to save herfrom toe-snapping crabs before finding her pants for her. Lateron Eve acknowledges her situation. “She was glad he wasso tough and self-reliant, but at the same time he was so disturbingand awoke in her a feeling of being a helpless and vulnerablefemale” (38). She is correct. She doesn’t make their dinner,the only useful thing she does is sweep out a hut and slaughtera few of the harmless insects that lived there. She is so amazinglyincapable that when she makes an attempt at lessening her degreeof ineffectualness by staying out of Wade’s way while he fashionsa canoe with his all purpose panga, she is almost rapedand/or killed. Savior Wade is forced to act once again on herbehalf.
Eve is weakness personified, and Wade isat the other end of the spectrum. He supplies Eve with everythingshe needs. He finds her suitable, yet fashionable, clothes appropriatefor a wild jungle trek (at least they were stylish until somemonkeys destroyed the backside). He spontaneously creates a pairof insoles with his amazing knife so she can walk along the deadlyground without falling out of her sandals. Eve drinks “hotsmoky coffee, made from wild beans which Wade had roasted andground to powder between a couple of stones” (130). He cansupply them both with caffeine as well as fabricate a canoe andores. He pure male strength powers them swiftly towards Tanga,and Eve is capable of doing nothing but hindering him. “Nowand again on a smooth stretch he allowed her to paddle for a while,so that she kept supple and didn’t grow stiff crouched all thetime on the low seat he had fashioned, with a bar across so thatshe could hold on when they ran into the rapids” (123-124). Even the rowing that Eve does Wade lets her do for her own goodand not because he cannot handle doing it himself.
The dominance and submission of Wade andEve can also be noticed in the dialogue as well. Eve has weakspeech verbs. She “whimpers,” “mumbles,” “gasps,” “asks,” and “begs” wheregallant Wade “orders,” “barks,” “shouts,””growls,” and “mocks.” Also, Eve often stuttersdozens of times and says things like “I-I’m all right”(33). Wade is never trips over the first letter of his sentence,he has too much testosterone raging through his hardened veinsfor that sort of behavior. Wade and Eve refer to each other ina way that cements their roles. Wade refers to her as a childor slave and she talks to him as if he were her master. “Eveheard him laugh softly to himself, for in the Masai language hehad called her his girl, and she had called him her boss”(58). This kind of language more than proves the existence ofa master-slave relationship.
Often, Wade is almost violent andbrutish towards Eve. For example, for no reason Wade lashes outwith “I know your feet are hurting and your spirits are wilting. . . but this I have to do. On your feet, deb!’ He enclosedher shoulder with his sunburned hand and forced her to rise”(25). Throughout the novel, he grasps her wrists, gives her arough shake, and pushes her away from him. Why does Wade O’Marabehave this way, and why does Eve find it attractive?
The answer is sexual domination. Whenthe masculine inferno Wade O’Mara shows sugar-coated Eve who isboss, it makes her aware of how virile he is. She might replywith a slightly sassy remark or humble answer letting Wade knowhow absolutely feminine she is. Her feminine need for protectioncombined with the topaz eyes, titian hair, and milky skin makesWade so wild that it is difficult for him to keep his khaki pantsin place. Eve states that “men believed that it exciteda girl the thought of being at the mercy of a tough and ruthlesscharacter, and she didn’t dare to look at Wade in case she actuallyfelt a stirring curiosity about what it would feel like if hesuddenly flung her down in the rampant ferns and took her witha all the forceful assurance with which he tackled everything”(27). Obviously Eve believes it too. Not only would she likeWade to free them both of their suitable jungle attire, she thinksabout being forcefully tackled and taken in the ferns.
This domineering male makes Eve feel feminine;”never before had she felt so aware of being a woman asin this jungle with a tough mercenary” (32). Eve is notoverly sensitive that her breasts bounce when she keeps stridewith Wade, or is she suffering from cramps and notices the lackof Midol, but she is sensing Major Wade O’Mara’s testosteroneenhanced aura. She also finds it attractive. She believes that “men and women didn’t only look and behave differently,but had a function in life that was also so very dissimilar andaccounted for the fact that men had aggressive ways to which womensubmitted either willingly or unwillingly” (31). Eve wantsto submit.
These excessive roles substitute for thegraphic, erotic sexual scenes that do not appear in Harlequinromances. Where a true smut-novel can literally spell out thegory details, novel makes a feeble attempt at subtly. By lettingthe reader know who wears the pants (or at least the pair witha butt still intact), one is able to have a more intense and eroticfeeling in reference to the relationship of Wade and Eve. Anexotic, sensual romance tale is the goal of this novel, and itis reached by using clearly defined dominant and submissive sexroles.
Winspear, Violet. Time of the Temptress. Toronto: Harlequin Books, 1978.