This profoundly disturbed woman narrates her own story with fragmented and obsessive memories which are themselves suspect, given the nature of her consciousness. Her tendency to describe everything she relates, from the chopping of wood to the gathering of vegetables, in images of amputation and mutilation suggests the power of the anger and guilt she has repressed Moreover, she has invented a fantasy about her past life—a fantasy which she so clearly believes that the reader is likely to be misled as well.
As she tells it, she has recently divorced her husband and abandoned his child, apparently because he treated her like an object and she lost the ability to love. The trouble is in the neck, which isolates mind from body, she explains, observing that her own neck must have closed over, shutting her into her head and preventing her from feeling any emotion whatsoever. The reality which finally “surfaces” is that she has had an illegal abortion several years earlier and has been unable to live with her guilt at betraying her parents and her own childhood horror of ever hurting any living creature. It is out of self-hatred and a profound desire for atonement that the narrator not seeks to isolate herself from the human world she identifies as full of deceit, exploitation, and violence.
Joe, the narrator’s current boyfriend, is a thinly drawn character who represents the opposite of the fake husband/lover, the father of the aborted fetus. The narrator was the victim in that first relationship—having the abortion because he wanted it, accepting his judgment that women could not become true artists, believing that he could love her and still be faithful to wife and children. As her art professor, he gave her C’s in proof of his aesthetic objectivity. Joe is not nearly so self-confident or dominating. He is the one who loves too much, who cannot mask his own vulnerability, whose face contorts with pain when she refuses to say, “I love you.” Every time the narrator sells one of her drawings or gets a new commission, he mangles another pot. Joe is furry and like a buffalo, the narrator asserts, but because “he is only half-formed,” in the end she knows that she can trust him. He will, in fact, be waiting for her when she finally surfaces from her descent into madness.
If Joe represents honesty and possibility, David represents hypocrisy and inauthenticity. Despite his anti-American diatribes, he turns out to be as destructive and exploitative as he accuses the “fascist-pig Yanks” of being When...
(The entire section is 1041 words.)