Last Updated September 5, 2023.
In this feminist novel of the 1970s, the primary theme is the search for identity—specifically, an artist's search, in the Künstlerroman genre. As the female title character, Violet, moves away from her unfulfilling occupation of commercial artist and into her true vocation of painter, two other important themes unroll as well: women's fulfillment in male-dominated society, and a critique of modern consumer commercialism.
While the artist's search for identity primarily concerns Violet, which is ultimately satisfying to her and, presumably, the reader, the plot also develops around the reasons for the suicide of her uncle Ambrose. As the author of an unfinished novel, Ambrose is the inverse of his niece as he dies before realizing his longed-for goal.
For years working in illustration to earn a living, Violet feels she abandoned a key part of herself along with her dreams of being a painter. When Violet finally thinks of painting as rightfully hers through subject and theme, not just the artist's role, she breaks through the gender confines.
Significantly, she works in publishing female-centered escapist romance novels so her job symbolizes commercialism in two ways, including the exploitation of traditional femininity.