During the Reign of the Queen of Persia Critical Essays

Joan Chase


(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Chase articulates a consistent difference between the men and women in this book: Men are lonely and isolated, and women fit into a group. Dan, Libby’s husband, is, at the beginning and ending of the novel, the only male in a house with ten women. He chooses to set up a handyman space in the basement and work there, his company the rats and mice that scurry through. Grandad also chooses to isolate himself when he is in the house, napping in a living room chair or sleeping in a bedroom near the back stairs. He spends most of his time in the barn. The food that Grandad eats also isolates him from the rest of the family; he eats strange combinations of food that offend his wife, such as pouring coffee in a bowl on top of his pie and eating them together, leading Lil to tell him that he eats like the hogs. His death further illustrates his separation from his family. Several hours after his death, he is discovered by Ross, Rachel’s son, in the small bathroom in the back of the house, a direct contrast with Grace’s death in bed attended by loving sisters, mother, and nurse.

Female solidarity determines much of the action in the novel, both comic and poignant. Lil took Celia with her on a trip to Hawaii, later calling the trip Celia’s wedding present. As the narrators recall: “Uncle Dan said it was just like her to think up a wedding gift that left out the husband entirely, but then again he couldn’t think of a more appropriate introduction to the family.” Lil’s daughters, in another comic scene, took revenge on Neil’s hiding their clothes while they swam by moving his car and letting the air out of its tires. Neil left their house angrily after his car was...

(The entire section is 687 words.)