What images of masculinity are presented in the film Deliverance?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the 1972 film version of James Dickey's novel Deliverance, four businessmen from Atlanta, Georgia, join together to experience a canoeing adventure down a river in the North Georgian wilderness that will soon be dammed.  This trip is to be a back-to-nature,male-bonding, spiritually reviving experience.

With Lewis, who is a bona fide outdoorsman, as the leader who exudes confidence, the men feel assured that they will enjoy themselves.The others are not so experienced. Lewis is the strongest and most predatory of the men; he thrives on mastering new challenges. He has no qualms about killing the mountain man that rapes Bobby.

Ed is a more sophisticated man, an artist, who is the director of an advertising agency.  Often surrounded by women, Ed does not contemplate the more male-based thoughts of Lewis. But, his experience with death in the woods changes him; he feels that he can cope with almost anything even though he fears that someone is coming for him whenever he hears a car outside.

Bobby is an insurance man who likes comfort and is the weakest of the men. He is non-physical, overweight, and out of shape. He attacks people verbally instead of physically.  His encounter with the mountain man leaves him scarred and he tells the others, "I don't think I want to see you for a while." (In the novel, he moves away.) Since he wanted to bring liquor on the canoe trip, Bobby may take to drinking more after this experience.

Drew, a devoted family man, is the most considerate of the men; he is the antithesis of Lewis. No survivalist; he argues for going to the authorities after Lewis shoots the mountain man with an arrow. Tragically, he is killed in the turbulent waters as he may have been shot, or he may have received a fatal gash on the head when he falls from the boat.

The backwoods men portray degenerate, ignorant, and culturally deprived men who are easily insulted and enjoy dominating the strangers in a depraved manner.