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In your favorite book, do men talk like men and women talk like women? Or is it a mixture of the two? While many readers may not consciously notice the way that characters speak, those same readers might subconsciously pick up on the difference, or lack of differences, in the way those characters speak. In some of the many famous American novels, the characters, regardless of gender, talk like whatever sex the author is, as it is hard to write like a gender that is not your own. When exploring the differences between the genders, perhaps one of the most important differences, and the easiest to spot, is the way that each gender speaks. Luckily, there is a computer program that can look at men vs. women speech patterns and interpret them electronically, giving many categories for comparison between the two. When looking at the differences between three women from two famous works written by male authors, Caddy in William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury and Vivian and Carmen Sternwood in Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, and two women from two works written by female authors, Edna in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening and Ivy in Lee Smith’s Fair and Tender Ladies, one would expect the difference between the language to be stark. 1 However, one would not expect the results that can be seen. In fact, in most categories, the male writers actually write in a more conventionally female way than the actual females do. That is Caddy, Carmen, and Vivian actually talk in a more feminine way than Edna and Ivy, despite being created by males. While examining these unusual differences between the females and males, an interesting example comes to mind: perhaps the male authors, who were trying to sound female, actually accomplish this because the actual female authors, who were trying to create advanced, “ahead-of-their-time” women, attempted to sound more masculine, as masculinity is seen as more powerful than femininity.


American Novel