Cynthia Propper Seton Susan E. Burke - Essay

Susan E. Burke

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[In "The Sea Change of Angela Lewes"] Angela Porter Lewes' sea change is a personal, not a political, one. She is not, as the jacket copy implies ("… this novel is concerned with the question of equality between men and women") involved in Womens' Lib heroics, though, unfortunately, toward the end of the book, the author feels an obligation to throw in a few very male chauvinistic statements for her heroine to do battle with; the triteness almost ruins the Angela she has been building.

Angela Lewes grew up in New England, oversized and plain, and married Charlie, a "boy-man," the handsome, always youthful type who finds an obedient and sheltered wife the most comfortable to live with. Angela easily complied with this need, because it coincided with her own….

Eventually, simply through the secret act of writing (she's not an immediate success), she realizes that she has developed a self not dependent on her husband or her four children or her beloved father for its sustenance. She begins to feel her uniqueness and, instead of being self-deprecating, she becomes self-confident. Even her latent sexual powers are sparked by one of her husband's friends, whom she has loved for a long time, and by her agent, both gentle men who love her. Her sea change begins to finalize, to become Shakespearean, "into something rich and strange."

But Angela is not unique in her family: the other Porter women are no slouches at making themselves mistresses of their fates. Her grandmother, after dutifully raising her children and burying her...

(The entire section is 652 words.)