The Power

by Naomi Alderman

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Chapters 43–50 Summary

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Margot Cleary learns via phone call that Jocelyn, barely alive with significant injuries, has been found in the woods in Bessapara.

Margot is overcome with emotion, realizing that she allowed, even encouraged, her daughter to come to harm. She recalls a time when Jocelyn was three when mother and daughter explored an apple orchard together. Jocelyn accidentally disturbed a swarm of wasps, and although Margot had always been afraid of the them, Margot scooped Jocelyn in her arms and ran. While Jocelyn was unharmed, Margot found seven stings on her arm.

Margot wonders what she can do to stop this cycle of violence and danger that she helped to set in motion.

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In rural Idaho, an unnamed man reports to the post office to retrieve a package addressed to him. He thinks of all the bizarre, even fraudulent packages he’s received from men involved in the men’s rights movement. Skeptical but intrigued after reading the first line in a notebook, the man takes the envelope home with him.

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Mother Eve delivers a televised speech in Bessapara urging women across the world to lend their support against the violence in the north. She asks that America officially join the fight as well. Mother Eve knows that her followers want something simple, and she is willing to give that to them.

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After learning that Jocelyn will likely never fully recover from her injuries, Margot sits for a televised interview in which she asserts that the United States will not stand for terrorism at home or abroad. Meanwhile, extremist men’s rights groups in the US are making credible threats after photos from northern Bessapara were published showing myriad atrocities against men. The consensus, however, is that these are photoshopped pictures. Margot urges the President of the United States to officially declare support for Bessapara, knowing that she stands to benefit financially from more NorthStar deployments and that the Saudi-backed insurgents have nuclear missiles.

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The narrator of the book suggests that people with a diverse set of beliefs all agreed in “those days” that a nuclear apocalypse was the only way to fix the problems in the world.

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Roxy has a conversation with Bernie on a balcony overlooking the ocean. She says that Bernie made a mistake in letting Darrell have her skein. Bernie concedes that Roxy should probably kill him, because she can’t afford to be “soft.” Roxy laughs, saying it took her far too long to learn that lesson. She tells Bernie she has met a man she likes, and Bernies asks if they will have children. Roxy remarks that if she had a daughter, the girl would be remarkably strong. After one last sip from their drinks, Roxy and Bernie descend to their underground bunker.

Apocrypha excluded from the Book of Eve

This section of the book is from a manuscript found in Cappadocia, nearly 1,500 years prior to the publishing of Neil’s book. In this document, the speaker asserts that power is “infinite” and “complex.” The speaker explains how someone can not examine an acorn, for instance, and know each component of the oak free from which it fell. The more one observes something, the speaker says, the more difficult it becomes to understand it. The complexities of life are impossible to measure, the speaker says. Human beings are similarly complex, and the speaker cautions the reader not to assume he or she will ever be able to understand anything. The speaker claims that humans do not even know themselves, that our dreams are more real than reality...

(This entire section contains 1006 words.)

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Neil and Naomi's Correspondence

This section is comprised of a letter from Naomi, Neil’s fellow writer to whom he had sent his completed draft of The Power.

She calls the character of Mother Eve a contortionist, comparing her to a circus performer who once caused Naomi’s hand to wave involuntarily. She remarks than Tunde is representative of the many men throughout the years whose art and writing went uncredited because it was assumed that men were incapable of such.

She expresses skepticism, however, that male “warriors” were a widespread societal norm at any point in history. She thinks it is an expression of a bizarre sexual fetish, and does not think it realistic that armies would have been chiefly composed of men.

She refers to the Cataclysm, an apocalyptic event that forced civilization to restart, when she asks if Neil’s version of history is compatible with the official version taught in schools. Neil’s book says that skeins were not present in women until shortly before the Cataclysm, but Naomi suggests that this claim can not be proven by history or science.

She suggests that patriarchal societies have always been more peaceful than matriarchal ones, but she does not believe there was ever such widespread patriarchy as Neil’s book describes it. She ends her letter by saying that she only means to challenge Neil’s thinking before critics do.

What follows is an exchange of letters between Naomi and Neil, as each of them argue in favor of their interpretation of the past. Neil is grateful that such a powerful, talented woman has taken the time to read his writing, but he disagrees with her claim that his book is not grounded in history.

He argues that much of recorded history was controlled by women with an agenda to eliminate all traces of the past. He says that the way the world is now—male genital mutilation, widespread war, discrimination—is not natural and that there is no way men could ever have been as cruel to women as women currently are to men. He argues that gender is a mere social construct. 

Naomi expresses respect for what Neil hopes to achieve with his book, but she wants to meet in person to further discuss her concerns. Before signing off on her final letter, Naomi asks if Neil would consider publishing his book under a female pseudonym.


Chapters 35–42 Summary