Form and Content
The Girl is a novel built around the stories of women and men living under the shadow of the Great Depression of the 1930’s in St. Paul, Minnesota. Meridel Le Sueur herself took down these stories from that time, when she was a member of the Workers Alliance and living in a warehouse with others. Although Le Sueur was unable to get her novel published in 1939—it was too radical, too pessimistic, too unconventional—by 1978 it was resurrected and acclaimed by feminist, literary, and historical scholars, as well as by the reading public.
In choosing an unnamed narrator, Le Sueur substantiates a basic tenet of her writing: to get rid of the “I,” the egotistical, alienated, destructive hero-protagonist who must win or die at all costs. Instead, she seeks to verify the “communal I,” the voices of the collective over the voice of the individual, the voices of cooperation over the voice of the competitor. In The Girl, a chorus of voices participate in the narrative. Gathering at the German Village, a bar and speakeasy, they tell their stories and write their lives. It is indicative of Le Sueur’s emphasis on the collective voice that those who are outside the collective fail. For example, Butch, who insists that he wants to “beat out the other guy,” that he always “must win,” is killed.
The story begins with the arrival of the Girl from a village up the river in Minnesota. The daughter of a large, poor family, she is shy, sensitive, inexperienced, yet hardworking, and she soon wins a place among the others in the bar. The Girl is not only running away from being a burden on her family but also running toward a new life, new experiences,...
(The entire section is 692 words.)