Book 1, Chapter 16
Helena invites Theo to see the kittens of the cat they used to own together. He explains that the arrival of kittens is a special event and that a few close friends are usually invited to the birthing ceremony. Feline reproduction is tightly controlled by the government, and the cat will now be sterilized while Helena keeps one female kitten. Alternatively, the cat could be allowed one more litter in which all but one male kitten would be humanely killed. This will be the first time Theo has visited Helena’s new home, and he realizes that it has been exactly one year since she left him for her new husband, Rupert. He wonders whether Helena tells Rupert what Theo was like in bed. He thinks she probably does, but he admits that he cannot really blame her, knowing how poorly he treated her. Even before the death of their daughter, their marriage was a failure because Theo married Helena for the wrong reasons. He confesses that most of his interest in Helena came from the fact that she was the daughter of the master and also studied history at Oxford, making her a prestigious choice for a wife. He did not love her but thought that this was as close as he would probably get to loving someone. Their daughter’s death only exposed what was already a failing marriage, making the rift between them irreparable.
Theo reveals that though it might seem that with the fear of pregnancy gone, people would have become more sexually active, it is in fact the opposite. The knowledge of universal infertility has taken the meaning out of sex. Even for couples who would not ordinarily want to reproduce, the sexual act has become perfunctory and, for some, unpleasant. Women are increasingly intolerant of men, both for their infertility...
(The entire section is 836 words.)