What's the significance of the cake baking episode in The Edible Woman?
By baking a woman-shaped cake and presenting it to her fiancé, Marian reveals her insights into the institution of marriage and, more broadly, into male–female relations in a patriarchal society. Until she dreams up the concept of the woman-shaped cake, Marian has been self-destructing through her inability to eat. Although she understands that her relationship with Peter is damaging her, because she is engaged to a man she not really love, she has not been able to articulate how deeply distressed she is. Her unease goes far beyond her relationship with him as an individual. Marian comes to understand that marriage would be a fatal error, for her husband, Peter, would totally dominate her—he would destroy her as a person, or consume her.
The baking is as important as the shape of the cake and Peter’s refusal to eat it. Earlier, Marian had purchased a heart-shaped cake for Valentine’s Day. She was unable to eat this cake, which stands for “consumption” in two ways—both a consumer item that she purchased and the inability of a woman to consume the essence of a man. By turning to baking, Marian was reasserting her identity as a creative person as well as distinguishing an object, the cake, from her actual self.
check Approved by eNotes Editorial