Woman on the Edge of Time Essay - Masterplots II: Women’s Literature Series Woman on the Edge of Time Analysis

Marge Piercy

Masterpieces of Women's Literature Woman on the Edge of Time Analysis

An extended, feminist revision of Ken Kesey’s One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962), Woman on the Edge of Time combines a critique of authoritarian institutions with one of the most fully realized feminist utopias. Connie’s visits to Luciente’s world map out systematic alternatives to the abuses of power that she suffers as a patient and as a middle-aged, poor, Chicana single mother. These visits explore three interrelated categories of concern shared by all Piercy’s work: a Marxist critique of economically based power hierarchies; a feminist critique of sex roles, gender inequities, and child-rearing practices; and a humanist critique of scientific ignorance of and disregard for the ecological unity of the human mind and the natural environment. As one of Luciente’s family members explains, “the original division of labor” between men and women enabled “later divvies into have and have-nots, powerful and powerless, enjoyers and workers, rapists and victims. The patriarchal mind/body split turned the body to machine and the rest of the universe into booty on which the will could run rampant.”

Luciente’s world functions as a classless utopia whose equal distribution of labor and wealth emphasizes the importance of productive, meaningful work and indicts excessive consumption. Rejecting capitalism, they no longer buy or sell anything; they have “dumped the jobs telling people what to do, counting money and moving it about.” Concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a privileged few is a central evil in every reality of the book. Luciente explains that “the force that destroyed so many races of beings, human and animal . . . was profit-oriented greed.” It is the remnants of these greedy profiteers whom Luciente and her friends are battling; the...

(The entire section is 740 words.)