Form and Content
The Odd Woman takes place during one week in the life of Jane Clifford, a young, single, untenured professor. During the brief transition between the fall and spring semesters, Jane copes with the death of her beloved grandmother, her highly charged relationships with family and friends, and her painful love affair with a married professor at another university. In particular, as Gail Godwin’s title suggests, Jane comes to terms with her own identity as an independent woman.
When the novel begins, Jane is lying wide awake, fretting about what grades to give her students, contemplating George Gissing’s 1893 novel The Odd Women (which she will teach the following semester), and analyzing her affair with Gabriel Weeks. Their relationship seems bland beside the romantic entanglements experienced by other women in her family—such as her great-aunt, Cleva, who eloped with the stage villain in a melodrama. As she lies awake, Jane also imagines being visited by the “Enema Bandit,” a prowler who molests solitary women.
Jane is awakened the next morning by her mother’s telephone call: Her grandmother, Edith, has died. Before Jane goes home for the funeral, she calls her friend Gerda to tell her about Edith’s death and has lunch with glamorous Sonia Marks. At the airport, she meets her student, Marsha, whose own long-distance love affair appears to be ending happily. Jane—who wonders miserably whether Gabriel truly loves...
(The entire section is 538 words.)