Ann Harrington epitomizes the preemancipated woman, completely dependent on her husband. Had Wayne not died, this very ordinary woman would probably have remained trapped in her husband’s shadow. Ironically, Wayne’s “eminence” was merely a construct of Ann’s—he was as empty a shell as she.
Madden conveys Ann’s deep feelings of worthlessness by detailing a grueling childhood incident during which Ann submitted sexually to a gang of boys. Ann’s apparent lack of shame reveals her well-developed defense mechanism. Madden implies that by cutting off and denying her true feelings, Ann has been able to minimize the painful experiences in her life.
Madden allows the reader to witness, partake, and rejoice in Ann’s growth. The scenes in the driver’s examination office are unforgettably written, sparse, yet vividly descriptive; the reader shares Ann’s intense determination to pass her driver’s test.
After teaching herself to drive in Wayne’s battered old car, Ann feels confident enough to take the test. Unfortunately, she is tested by an arrogant, ignorant, sexist police officer who barks impossible orders at her. After her fourth attempt, the officer directs her to a secluded dirt road and tries to blackmail her into performing a sexual act. Her refusal to succumb to him marks a real breakthrough for Ann. She is no longer willing to use her body to attain what she wants. When she does pass the test, it is on her own terms, and the victory belongs not only to Ann but also to everyone who has ever been intimidated and exploited by someone with power and authority.
Mark Harrington is a sensitive, imaginative...
(The entire section is 684 words.)