Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Jake’s “thing” is really three things. Initially, and most literally, it is his penis, the object of much therapeutic attention. Later, Jake’s thing is his misogynistic attitude. Ultimately, however, Jake’s thing is his cultural critique which lashes out at trendy ideology and its social repercussions.

As appalling as his misogyny may seem, Jake does not start out actively disliking women. When the reader first meets him, he still feels affection for his wife despite his lack of sexual interest. A series of bad experiences with women and the humiliations of his sexual therapy, however, combine to demoralize Jake. The misogynistic attitude he acquires derives not from a well-considered philosophy but from an embattled ego.

Without sexual desire, Jake lacks what Brenda calls the “ballast” needed to keep him steady in the world. So long as his sexuality had given him a sense of social belonging, he remained unaware of his isolation from the cultural mainstream. Sexual therapy, however, forces him to look critically not only at himself but also at the world around him, and he does not like what he sees. More to the point, Jake does not like what he hears. The language used in modern culture tends to alienate people from one another rather than help them to communicate, a phenomenon which he did not notice in the days when he was still able to communicate sexually. Now that he is no longer physically attracted to Eve, for example, he...

(The entire section is 462 words.)