Even Cowgirls Get the Blues Themes
by Tom Robbins

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Social Concerns / Themes

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Like Another Roadside Attraction (1971), Even Cowgirls Get the Blues expresses its social concern through the theme of personal freedom. One of the main plot lines involves the takeover of the Rubber Rose ranch, a women's health farm owned by a cosmetic and feminine hygiene company. Bonanza Jellybean and a group of cowgirls intend to turn the dude ranch into a working one. Their action is a form of social protest against a society which allows girls to wear cowgirl outfits only until they reach puberty, against a society which limits the roles available to women. In the course of the novel, Sissy Hankshaw arrives at the Rubber Rose. Sissy, who works as a model for the same cosmetic concern, was born with huge thumbs which she uses for hitching rides across the country. Like the dissident cowgirls, Sissy's deviation from the norm has resulted in unhappiness, as she has been pressured by society to conform completely even in her physical features. Robbins further heightens the conflict between individual freedom and social conformity by introducing the last remaining flock of whooping cranes into the plot of the novel. These cranes, like Sissy and Bonanza Jellybean, risk their survival rather than limit their freedom.

At the same time Robbins contrasts personal freedom with social conformity, he presents a satire of militancy. His targets are all those who sacrifice themselves to their causes, whether they be the militant feminists at the Rubber Rose or militant proponents of counterculture lifestyles. This satire once again reinforces Robbins's belief that the individual is more important than the group and that social action is less important than the perfection of the individual. In addition, he finds fault with religions, both eastern and western, which cannot provide the spiritual direction necessary for individual human fulfillment. Robbins turns to the classical god Pan and fertility goddesses as a more sensible spiritual center to counter the repressive nature of most western religions.

Once again, Robbins investigates the nature of fiction in his novel. Dr. Robbins, the narrator in Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, like Marx Marvelous in Another Roadside Attraction, undertakes the writing of the novel only after falling in love with the heroine. In the course of his novel, Robbins considers the modern novel in America, alluding to Capote, Barth, Updike, Vonnegut, Oates, Kerouac, and Kesey.