Lisa Alther’s first published novel, Kinflicks, functions on three levels. First, it is a cultural history of America from the 1960’s to the 1970’s. Second, it is a maturation novel of a young American woman during that time. Third, it is a philosophical novel that explores the value of life and questions whether suffering, death, and life have meaning.
As a cultural history, Kinflicks looks at the effect the war in Vietnam had on the United States. As Ginny becomes more aware of the war, she loses her innocence. She moves from being a flag-twirling teenager who dates a gum-chewing football star to being a lesbian, vegetarian war protester who joins the revolution against the establishment. Like other Americans, she can no longer conform to traditional patriotic and family values, such as settling down to be a housewife and mother; even after she marries and has a child, she becomes intimate with an Army deserter. The Vietnam War changed America forever.
As a maturation novel, Kinflicks examines Ginny’s search for an identity. This search is symbolized by her hairstyles, which always reflect someone else. For example, while dating the football player, she wears a ponytail. She teases her hair when she dates the biker, then puts it in a bun to imitate Miss Head. Eddie takes down the bun and braids Ginny’s hair like her own. In short, Ginny always takes on the identity of the person she is with.
It is worth noting that Ginny is trying to find her way in a patriarchy, but she finds meaning only in her relationships with other women and...
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