Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Readers have become accustomed to “feminist” works, which often present men as an alien, aggressive, and incomprehensible species. Stanley and the Women is a mirror image of that attitude and may simply be called a work of “masculism.” This, however, is a concept with which readers are not familiar, and Amis does not have the support, as do “feminists,” of an already developed ideology. Nor is it easy to present any such ideology within the confines of a novel.

Amis gets around this problem, in effect, by embedding within the novel a sequence of male conversations, mostly about women, which make his point for him. The last of these is between Stanley and Dr. Wainwright, who is explaining his conviction that Susan stabbed herself. It moves on from there, though, to Stanley’s theory that women behave as they do because of sexual pressure, his belief that “Women’s Lib” has made everything worse, and finally to Wainwright’s declaration that there is no point in saying anything to any woman ever. By this time, however, one realizes that both characters are drunk. The only questions are, how far back in the conversation did they get drunk, and which bits of it are to be taken seriously: probably much, but possibly nothing.

In similar scenes earlier in the novel, Stanley talks to Bert, his former wife’s second husband, about their common experience; to the policeman who returns his son, about the dangers of attacking others’...

(The entire section is 408 words.)