Miriam Berg and Beth Walker share the protagonist’s role in the novel. Piercy painstakingly characterizes both women, allotting each a section in which enough of each woman’s adolescence is chronicled to allow the reader to find cause and effect in her family life and class background relative to her adult personality. Piercy’s approach to characterizing Beth and Miriam is to derive them from their fictional but representative childhood environment (family life in the United States of the 1950’s and the 1960’s), which automatically creates conflict, since that environment was essentially hostile to women. The two women’s parents share the conventional assumptions about female children, victimizing their daughters by their neglect of the individual in the girl.
Piercy endows both the young Beth and the young Miriam with considerable intellect and insight, which enable them to perceive the repression in their upbringing. Nevertheless, both women undergo a slow and painful process before they even begin to realize the extent of the psychic damage that has been done to them—and, by extension, to most women.
With Beth, Piercy illustrates active progress toward liberation. Beth’s development as a character is symbolic of many women’s enlightenment and of their slow but steady growth toward self-love and love of women (not necessarily in lesbian relationships only but also through appreciation of the qualities and strengths of women in...
(The entire section is 604 words.)