1. In the early chapters of The Sheik, Diana Mayo is repeatedly characterized for her boyish characteristics and her asexuality:
“She was only of medium height and very slender, standing erect with the easy, vigorous carriage of an athletic boy” (9).
“’I was brought up as a boy, my training was hard’” (14).
“Dressed as a boy, treated as a boy, she learned to ride and to shoot and to fish—not as amusements, but seriously, to enable her to take her place later on as a companion to the man [her brother, Aubrey] whose only interests they were…With that end in view her upbringing had been Spartan, no allowances were made for sex or temperament and nothing was spared to gain the desired result” (19-20).
Diana, in fact, has difficulty seeing herself as a woman: “’God made me a woman. Why, only He knows’” (14). Plus, she assures Aubrey that she will be at his wedding “’in time to be best man’” rather than a bridesmaid in his wedding party (28) .
What does the novel gain, both in terms of character development and plot, in giving Diana such gender-bending characteristics?
2. The Sheik is an unusual romance novel in that the meeting of the heroine and hero consists of a criminal act: kidnapping and rape. After the Sheik kidnaps Diana and brings her back to his camp, he rapes her, but E. M Hull never uses the word rape to describe what happens.
What language does Hull use to depict the sexual assault, and how does that language simultaneously convey a sense of the erotic? What is the “strange fear” that Diana repeatedly refers to when she thinks of the Sheik?
3. Pamela Regis explained that the first element of a romance novel, “Society Defined,” is the “society that the heroine and hero will confront in their courtship” that “is in some way flawed” and “oppresses” the couple (31). Given this definition, what constitutes the society in which Diana and the Sheik begin their courtship, and how is it “flawed?”