Green Summary (Frances Sherwood)

Frances Sherwood


(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In her first novel, VINDICATION (1993), Frances Sherwood showed how the life of the eighteenth century feminist Mary Wollstonecraft was often guided by love rather than by reason. In GREEN, an American girl living in the 1950’s is as susceptible to males as her famous predecessor.

Zoe McLaren lives in Monterey, California, the daughter of a Mormon father and an Armenian mother, who periodically rebels against her husband’s code by getting drunk. Zoe, too, defies Mormon standards. Her best friend is a black girl, Margo Robinson, who like her Jewish adoptive father is a Marxist. The two girls run away to spend a day in San Francisco, where Zoe allows a middle-aged poet to use her body, then pays for his dinner, thus establishing the pattern of submissiveness which will determine her future.

Zoe then becomes the disciple and the mistress of Margo’s father, Aaron Robinson. However, faced with an appearance before the House Un-American Activities Committee, Aaron commits suicide, and Zoe turns elsewhere. With her new husband, Greylen Cloud, supposedly a Native American, she moves to Big Sur, California, to live close to nature, only to find Greylen possessive, promiscuous, and abusive. Fearful for herself and for her unborn child, Zoe escapes.

After her baby is born, Zoe supports herself for a time, then lives with various family members before again establishing her own home. When the insane Greylen reappears, however, Zoe is unable to save her child. Devastated after the loss of her baby, Zoe very nearly kills herself, but she is saved, essentially by her own hard-won force of character. Though GREEN is sometimes as sad as life itself, it is often comic. Ultimately, it is also a success story, for the protagonist is no longer “green” and foolish, but strong enough to face whatever life brings.