Last Updated on August 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 585
The Odd Woman by Gail Godwin follows the academic Jane Clifford as she goes back to her past and reassesses her life. As such the most important quotes are reflections on where she has gone wrong and who she is as a woman. For example, at one point she asks her friend Sonia:
"Tell me, Sonia, has it been your experience that women find it easier to demean themselves, devalue their dearest friends, rather than be disloyal or cause inconvenience to a man?"
The story opens with Jane already stating she feels out of control.
Jane Clifford lay awake in a Midwestern university town, thinking about insomnia . . . What she wanted was a metaphor of her own. Once she had truly named her insomnia, she felt sure she could befriend it . . . If you truly name something, you had that degree of control over it. Words could incite, soothe, destroy, exorcise . . . If you called things by their name, you had more control of your life, and she liked to be in control . . . She was not, however, in control of this recent insomnia.
The first major event, and perhaps main turning point of the novel, comes as soon as the beginning of the second chapter when she finds out her beloved grandmother Edith has passed away. As is her way, Jane looks to works of literature to help her understand how she feels.
Jane remembered a scene from an English novel. A woman was having a tea party in 1916. Suddenly her butler brought her a message. She opened it, closed it, tucked it away in her pocket, and poured everybody more tea. When all her guests left, she went up to her room and went to pieces over her son's death in battle.
Jane then heads home where she has to face her broken family. Particularly her stepfather who she states is the "villain in her life."
If every woman has a villain in her life, then Ray Sparks is surely mine . . . If someone told this man, "Do you know there is a young woman, says she is your stepdaughter . . . Says she still has nightmares about you, where you're beating her up, or locking her in rooms, or taking her money and clothes so she can't get away. Says she sometimes wakes up shaking and screaming like a little child, and she's going on thirty-three years old."
From her family she goes to New York where she find out that too many differences exist between her and her married lover Gabriel.
"Can two selves, do you think, after they have cleaned themselves up, got their "egos" in hand, can they then have a permanent love relationship; a kind of love that-that exists in a permanent, eternal way?"
Gabriel waited until he had carefully chewed and swallowed his mouthful. "No," he said, simply and matter-of-factly, as though he had long ago thought out his question and come to terms with it.
and then to Chicago to catch up with her brutally honest best friend Gerda.
I'm so sick of your avoidances and evasions and your cringing little refusals to see the truth, to see thing as they are! You just can't face the fact that you have to cut through all the crap and the shit if you want to live. That's what I'm trying to do and you hate me for it because you can't stand to do it yourself.
At the end Jane states that
You have made a few regrettable mistakes, but you've done nothing irrevocable.
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