Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Battling the oppression of women in twentieth century society has long been Piercy’s personal and literary preoccupation. Her many novels and volumes of poetry dwell on woman’s worthy nature and her benighted existence. The anger and the radical negations of the status quo of a committed feminist are obvious in her bleak portrait of Connie’s life and in her explications of a new social order. Connie’s life is a compendium of the personal and public oppressions of a minority woman. Hers is a life of poverty, conditioned dependence on males, responsibility for childbearing and child rearing, lack of education, demeaning employment, and political alienation. She is trained to passivity and accommodation, deprived of feelings of self-worth, then indicted as mad when her grief and rage break through her sex-typed behavior. These things exist, and they must cease, but the ways of saying so have become a bit predictable. Unfortunately for this novel, there are few surprises in liberation dogma.

If the present is the villain of this novel, the future is the hero. In the brave new world of 2137, men and women are equal—in fact, they are almost indistinguishable. The environment is protected, human responsibilities accepted, and personal freedoms respected. Laudable as such changes are, this future is nevertheless disturbing. It feels like a revival of the past, a synthetic primitivism with Tom Swift technology. Piercy’s version of future language is...

(The entire section is 414 words.)