The novel’s ironic title, Small Changes, indicates the nature of the action—small but often significant change taking place in the lives of most of the major characters. Although Piercy provides commentary on almost all the social and political concerns of the 1960’s and the 1970’s, she parallels the development of the two protagonists, Beth and Miriam, with the similarly erratic and often painful progress of the women’s movement.
The novel opens with the marriage of Beth Phail, a shy and seemingly conventional girl, to her high school sweetheart, Jim Walker. What society perceives as a beginning seems a dead end to Beth, so she runs away to find a more independent life in Boston. Although she must take unskilled and unsatisfying jobs, she slowly gains self-confidence and expands her network of friends. One of these friends is Miriam Berg, who eventually gets Beth a job as a keypunch operator at the computer corporation, Logical Systems Development, Inc., where Miriam works as a member of the technical staff.
Piercy then takes the reader back to another beginning in “The Book of Miriam,” which recounts Miriam’s unhappy childhood in Flatbush, Brooklyn, where she grew up feeling unloved and ugly. At college, however, she loses weight and gains her health. Her new sensuality is revealed and refined by a young poet named Phil, who is delighted to find her a virgin and “sexually, a tabula rasa.” Miriam’s connection to...
(The entire section is 590 words.)