What's the significance of Len's character in The Edible Woman?

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In Margaret Atwood’s novel, Leonard (Len) Slank is important as a counterpart to Ainsley Tewce. This young man and young woman represent the hypocrisy of people of both genders in their attitudes toward sexual relations and reproduction. Ainsley decides that she wants to be a mother and that she will prefer to raise the child on her own. Marian introduces her to Len, who is generally opposed to matrimony and is critical of Peter’s and Marian’s relationship because Peter is domineering and Marian is passive. She states, “Len never wished matrimony on anyone, especially anyone he liked.” Ainsley also is suspicious of marriage, regarding it as an anachronistic holdover of earlier patriarchal norms.

When she becomes sexually involved with Len, Ainsley is not intending to pursue a serious relationship. Her primary purpose is to get pregnant. She is pleased that Len is not expecting anything more permanent and even considers his antagonism to marriage to be a plus. Both of them are alike in failing to consider the full range of consequences of her pregnancy, as they seem oblivious to the emotional investment that each of them will make in the future child. Initially, Len is against her having the baby and hopes she will choose abortion. However, when Ainsley decides not only to go forward with the pregnancy but to marry a different man, Len is hurt. It seems his opposition to marriage only lasted until he was rejected as a viable candidate for husband.

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