Jealousy Summary (Nancy Friday)

Nancy Friday


(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Jealousy and envy are difficult to define; Nancy Friday touches on definitions throughout the book. Envy is additive; a person wants something that someone else has and envy results. Jealousy is subtractive; a person faces a loss of influence, control, and power, and consequently feels left out. From another perspective, however, envy is a form of jealousy. The most important psychological factors that enter into jealousy and envy include power, control, dependency, sibling rivalry, and the Oedipal urge. It is possible to go from being envious to feeling guilty about it; this can lead to working on reestablishing lost trust. Friday quotes Melanie Klein: “conscious awareness of envious, destructive feelings can repair love.”

Themes of abandonment, guilt, humiliation, reparation, idealization, narcissism, competition, sex, inhibition, gender identity, possessiveness, self-diminishment, greed, revenge, vulnerability, destruction, betrayal, and projection are woven into this ambitious book.

Like Friday’s previous book, MY MOTHER/MYSELF, JEALOUSY is strongly autobiographical. Recollections of Friday’s sex life before marriage abound. Many vignettes from close friends are included as well as interviews with professionals in mental health fields--hardly controlled studies. Although there are footnotes and a bibliography, documentation is careless. Quotations and interviews go unfootnoted. Authors are mentioned in the text but not included in the bibliography. Friday does not capitalize on the chance to elaborate on how to grow from being jealous and envious to achieving integration. Finally, her book is simply too long; some well-chosen chapters from Willard Gaylin’s FEELINGS or Leslie Farber’s LYING, DESPAIR, JEALOUSY, ENVY, SEX, SUICIDE, DRUGS AND THE GOOD LIFE would offer a more clearly focused discussion.