Writers: Marge Piercy

  • Helen Dawson

    'I'm a dead woman now too, I know it. But I did fight them. I'm not ashamed. I tried.'

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    Marge Piercy's own experiences of female oppression at the hands of both society and her first husband is reflected in her vivid portrayal of Connie Ramos' entrapment within a 1970s mental institution. Connie's evident sanity allows Piercy to illustrate the torment that those who do not fit into society's ideals are forced to suffer, such as the use of electroconvulsive therapy to 'treat' homosexuality. The asylum symbolises Connie's male-dominated world in which she is beaten by her husband and deemed as insane simply due to her attempts to physically protect herself. Her desire to mentally escape this leads her mind to travel to the future community of Mattapoisett. In this utopic society she is introduced to a world in which all forms of prejudice have been eradicated due to the elimination of distinctions between races, genders and classes. However, it is initially difficult for Connie to come to terms with certain aspects that enable this such as the replacement of natural birt...Marge Piercy's own experiences of female oppression at the hands of both society and her first husband is reflected in her vivid portrayal of Connie Ramos' entrapment within a 1970s mental institution. Connie's evident sanity allows Piercy to illustrate the torment that those who do not fit into society's ideals are forced to suffer, such as the use of electroconvulsive therapy to 'treat' homosexuality. The asylum symbolises Connie's male-dominated world in which she is beaten by her husband and deemed as insane simply due to her attempts to physically protect herself. Her desire to mentally escape this leads her mind to travel to the future community of Mattapoisett. In this utopic society she is introduced to a world in which all forms of prejudice have been eradicated due to the elimination of distinctions between races, genders and classes. However, it is initially difficult for Connie to come to terms with certain aspects that enable this such as the replacement of natural birthing methods with a mechanical process allowing members of both sex to become mothers. Despite this, Mattapoisett is depicted as the ideal of peace and freedom, which is even further emphasised when Connie accidentally finds herself in an alternative future New York. This world illustrates the opposite possibility that society could evolve into in which people are entirely isolated and restricted. It appears to present a future in which Connie's experiences of repression are the norm, as the submission of women has become such that they are literally only objects, the possessions of men enhanced in order to be as aesthetically pleasing to them as possible, resulting in a 'cartoon of femininity'. Although, throughout the novel, we are constantly hoping that Connie will finally find happiness and an escape in Mattapoisett the novel's ending instead reflects the experiences of many of those in the women's movement, including Piercy herself, in that it symbolises the sacrifice required and the apparently fatal acts of resistance which were deemed necessary in order for changes to be made. Connie realises that only through committing herself to a life within the insane asylum is she able to act against the oppression she has been forced to suffer. The novel is a definite necessity for any reader interested in feminism as well as having an added sci-fi element to it giving it a 1984 feel. Although seeming a bit far fetched at times it really does make you think about what an ideal world would be and to what extent we're moving towards or away from it. (more)

  • Mike Keller

    Very interesting

    Very interesting book

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