The Passion of New Eve contains elements of science fiction, such as the palace that spins at the throw of a switch, but it is more accurately termed allegorical feminist fantasy. Its setting is a fantastic and futuristic postmodern America. The plot is traditionally picaresque, but on any page it can take amazing, shocking, and even disgusting turns that defy any kind of realism or good taste.
Angela Carter’s fantastic plot serves her feminist purposes. The implications of events are not always easy to grasp, and the novel never follows a simple-minded agenda. It bristles with ideas and suggestions. Evelyn begins as a brutal and self-serving male. The women he encounters embody the extremes of his fevered imagination; he dominates and debases them. Later, Carter presents another version of women’s degradation when Eve herself experiences rape at Zero’s hands. Women get their revenge, however; Mother’s caves embody the ideas, the energies, and possibly the excesses of some kinds of feminism. Eve’s escape from being self-inseminated suggests the folly of some feminist plans.
Carter’s feminism, here as elsewhere, ultimately is heterosexual. Eve is impregnated by the male Tristessa in an encounter of equal and reciprocal sexual passion. The novel paints no rosy picture of what comes next, however. Although Mother’s feminist power wanes, Eve must set out, alone and pregnant, into the undefined future.
(The entire section is 518 words.)