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Sexism, Patriarchy, and Women in The Third Policeman

Updated: Jun 26, 2023

Written by Avjin Aktop, Nujen Yuksel, and Irmak Zelal Cengiz


O'Brien poses a conundrum as the book's final question rises the tension and question of bicycle. We might first think about what the novel is allegedly about rather than attempting to resolve Flann O'Brien's climactic epistemological puzzle in The Third Policeman. Women are not the focus of The Third Policeman, not in the conventional sense, at least; the final pages only include the pregnant and marginal Pegeen Meers as an embodied female figure. Those characters may seem unimportant to the reader, but they help us understand how the narrator's perspective is against women, in turn, the role of women in the story. Even though there are just a couple of women characters told, the role of women can be interpreted by the yard.


The narrator makes particular references to two additional women, one of whom is her mother, who was disposed of through an unreported death, but not before the narrator implies that she engaged in nighttime prostitution with customers of a pub. The third woman mentioned by name, the "lady teacher," represents the opposite extreme in the hyper sexualization of women compared to Pegeen Meers and the narrator's mother. The Third Policeman's critics have cited the fact that knowing and not knowing are key nodes in the story. That gender and sexuality metophors in the novel are crucial will be discussed in this review.


In a world governed by epistemic possibilities and restrictions, it is very conceivable that the female teacher is unaware that she has had sex with a bicycle. We are reminded by feminist critics that sexism is an epistemological possibility and that social injustice based on gender inequality can affect knowledge in ways that do not at first glance appear to be gendered, such as how we conceptualize the distinctions between the public and private, the mind and the body, etc. Though some critics have already noted the sexist undertones in The Third Policeman, others still urge for a thorough feminist interpretation of O'Brien's works. This confirms our suspicions about a text published in patriarchal Ireland in 1940.


“A fiddle is a superior diversionary tool.” The Third Policeman contains sexism, which is unavoidable, but it is also an "anti-epistemological work" that challenges the legitimacy of any philosophical certainty, even misogyny. As a result, misogyny's status as a naturalized form of knowing is eventually disproved, along with the likes of science, philosophy, and linguistics, as other critics have shown. And since that questions conventional ideas about gender and sexuality and the narrative's observable sexism, The Third Policeman is identified as a queer text.


Let us turn back to the iconic bicycle scene. In the book, bicycles are not only a significant vehicle for transportation, but they also possess genders and are close friends of their owner as written. Nonetheless, this relationship is a bit different than friendship, more like mind-body relation, mind representing the person and body representing the bicycle. In the sex scene of a man and the bicycle of a mistress, the bicycle is shown like a woman body. In conclusion, the narrator tells women as if their only future is their sexuality and trivial for anything else which shows the patriarchy in the anti-utopia of his.



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