Summary (Masterplots II: British and Commonwealth Fiction Series)
Most of the action in The Seven Ages is in the past, stories of earlier women as remembered by other women and heard by the Narrator, who has just retired to the countryside after thirty-five years of practice as a midwife. She has taken up residence in a small cottage near the farm, where, as an evacuee from World War II, she spent her childhood with her Aunt Doris and her cousin Ada.
While their talents vary, the women from the past are like most women—involved in bearing or not bearing children, and worrying about them as women have been occupied since the beginning of time. While several women of rank, subject to the pains of childbirth as are all women, figure prominently in these tales, the narrators of their stories are women who were midwives until the man-midwives and male doctors assumed authority in the seventeenth century (chapters 1, 2, 4, and 5). The story of Alice (chapter 3) is told by Ann, who was taught to read by her mother, Lady Elizabeth, and who was consequently burned as a witch (during the reign of Mary I). Granny Martin, the Narrator’s grandmother, remembers the story told to her by her grandmother, Nancy, who was in service to Sophie, the Matriarch from the time she was ten years old (chapter 6). The Narrator gives up her retirement after less than two years to support the women’s peace movement in the late twentieth century (chapter 7). This choice serves to declare her own identity.
Time is perceived...
(The entire section is 1149 words.)
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