Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

The Abduction, poet Maxine Kumin’s most significant excursion into the novel, is a taut and compelling work which skillfully traverses public and private themes. It insightfully explores the social tensions between Jews, Europeans, and African Americans in the 1960’s, as well as the more perennial antagonisms between men and women. The novel revolves around the emotional experience of its chief character, Lucy Starr.

When Lucy, an assured, well-connected woman of early middle age, abducts the poor African American boy Theodore, it seems a very unlikely action. In the course of the novel, Kumin sketches in for the reader the circumstances in Lucy’s psyche and biography that would precipitate such a rash action. Lucy has been married briefly and has been quite successful in her vocation, but she has never really found a permanent anchor. At first involved with Theodore simply in the role of educational consultant, she begins to become fascinated with him because he actually needs her help. With Theodore, unlike in her other relationships, she can feel strong; she is the great benefactor, the giver of form and purpose. In return, Theodore supplies a focal point in her life, a motivating center.

Lucy plays an ambiguous game with the other tutelary forces in Theodore’s life—his Aunt Alberta and his teacher, Mrs. Poston—and indeed with Theodore himself as well. She strives to demonstrate that she knows what is best for him, that her training and background will save him from the cycle of poverty that threatens to encompass his family. Yet a possessiveness lurks within Lucy’s altruism. The reader senses that Lucy seeks Theodore as compensation for some emotional void in her own inner life. Although an adult and a “leader,” Lucy at heart is still somewhat of a child. For example, Lucy believes that her daughter, Cindy, swims far more easily in the sea of reality than she does herself. Cindy is on closer...

(The entire section is 796 words.)