Social Concerns / Themes

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 306

Vida, Piercy's sixth novel, is named for its protagonist, Davida Asch, a radical anti-Vietnam war fugitive eluding capture for her participation in a bombing ten years earlier. Vida's activism recalls Piercy's involvement with SDS; her "group," the Network, pointedly resembles the Weathermen. Vida was one of four people coerced by Randy (an undercover federal agent) into bombing a Mobil Oil office. Thereafter, Vida leads the life of a fugitive; she frets over cameras in drugstores, can never use her name; calls from pay phone to pay phone; disguises herself to visit her dying mother in the hospital. When her mother does die, Vida cannot attend the funeral, although the FBI does.

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In the Autumn of 1979, Vida returns from the West Coast to the East, where she learns that her husband, supportive for many years, is divorcing her. She faces her mother's final illness, her sister's imprisonment, and the capture of an old colleague and lover. This desperate isolation is offset by the hope a new lover, Joel, offers; at the novel's close, however, Joel is captured by the FBI, and Vida — not certain she can continue — nonetheless does, disappearing into the night.

Piercy traces Vida's evolution from liberal to activist to radical revolutionary in meticulous detail. Moving between present and past, she "chronicles the weakening of a powerful anti-establishment organization brought about partially by internal disputes, and partially because they resort to violence, a phenomenon the author implies was usually instigated by gov't agents." Moreover, Piercy records, through Vida, the "dissolution of an era of social consciousness into one of apathy and self-interest." Vida's personal and political identities are inseparable, but her attempts to be active while underground are ineffectual. She is completely alienated socially from all but a few allies, and those ties are tenuous, based on a past they can neither undo nor re-create.

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