Nicole Tucker's Blog


The Telling

Ursula K. Le Guin The Telling is a novel which takes many risks by questioning themes such as education, censorship, sex, and even religion. Although all these topics were crucial to the novel, the contrast between the rural and urban society in the novel is the foundation of The Tellings core storyline. The difference between the urban society and rural society grasps readers’ attentions immediately as Sutty is exposed to both cultures because of the distinction in interaction between the cold, distant interaction seen in the urban society compared to the closeness and fear found in the rural society.

The fear found among the Akans in the rural area is not only recognized in their lack of speech, but also in their body language. The Akans living near the mountains are so oppressed that they not only have trouble speaking to newcomers such as Sutty, but they must forcefully stop themselves from telling their community secrets by physically covering their mouth such as the proprietor does while talking to Sutty. These actions are important to the story because it demonstrates just how important the Akans culture of telling is, not only does it weaken the residents mentally but also physically it causes them to negatively react to the forced censorship of the urban society.

While the rural society signifies a culture made up of so much culture, the urban society appears to represent the negative effects of a civilization that is lacking any sort of customs or traditions which has forced chaos into the urban society. Although physically the urban society Sutty comes from seems very orderly and monitored because of the hierarchy, the constant justification of immoral actions due to the importance of “God” causes isolation of residents of the urban community which leads to a form of chaos compared to the close knit relationships among residents in the rural society.


The Stone Gods

Jeanette Winterson’s The Stone Gods is a story I felt was based around the overall effects from utilization of the environment and its resources and the dependence of technology. From the very beginning a strong environmental premise is shown as readers are introduced to the situation of the people living on planet Orbus, whom the narrator states are in the process of leaving and moving to another planet they have discovered due to the environmental damage people have caused to Orbus. Although Orbus is a fictional planet, readers can immediately recognize that the planet symbolizes Earth and the current environmental debates and struggles are planet is involved in.

I find this story so fascinating because although it is never clearly asked, Winterson forces me as a reader to question, will our planet inevitably have to face these sorts of decisions if we can’t find a way to conserve our environmental resources and carelessly destroying our planet. The personal connections she forces readers to have with the topic I feel draws us in and makes the story interesting and to me honest.

Although I don’t think this was supposed to be a major theme of the story, I found Winterson’s emphasis on Orbus’ dependence on technology an important aspect of the book which continuously caught my attention and made me feel Winterson was trying to prove a point by illustrating how detrimental technology is to our society. On page 8 the character Manfred states, “Billie, if you weren’t so eccentric, you’d fit in better here. Why are you writing in a notebook? Nobody reads or writes anymore—there’s no need” (Winterson). This was one of the most extreme cases of how Winterson points out, technology is not only causing humans to ruin the environment, but it’s also a driving force in weakening our minds and allowing our society to become so lazy and machinery driven that simple acts such as reading and writing are grounds that makes someone “eccentric” in Orbus. Will our society one day turn into this and make reading and writing an act of the past? Scary.


The FeMale Man

I found Joanna Russ’ The Female Man extremely difficult to get into. The books narration was very puzzling and I often had to keep going back and rereading passages to figure out whom the narrator even was. After finally realizing after a few chapters that the narrator was in fact Joanna, I became very confused on how to identify her relationship to Jeanine, Janet, and Jael. After reading the novel I interpreted Jeanine, Janet, and Jael as all collectively making up the character of Joanna. Joanna is obviously struggling with her lack of feeling completely feminine by identifying herself as a “female man” and I believe each of the characters are representations of possibly who she is and who she strives to be.

 While finishing the novel, I continuously compared Whileaway to the utopian community Mattapoisett in Woman on the Edge Time. Although both places did have some similarities such as the tradition of taking away the children from the mother at the same age, having no real monogamy in the community, and the emphasis on the environment, Whileaway and Mattapoisett differed immensely when it came to gender, cohabitation, and overall interaction.

While Mattapoisett had both men and women treated equally and gender made no difference, men were completely absent from the utopian earth Whileaway where the entire species of men was wiped out. I believe Russ’ choice to make Whileaway a woman only environment was a tool in order to push the books theme of owning one’s self, whether that be feminine or non feminine.  There was also major differences in the two communities when it came to living arrangements, while Mattapoisett pushes having separate space for one’s own thoughts and meditation, Whileaway alluded to the women living with families of up to thirty people. Also, Mattapoisett as a community was made up of hippie-ish type attitudes where one did not argue or physically harm other residents while Whileaway appears to be a more violent and confrontational environment by Janet’s description of the duels.


What I Didn’t See

“The blacks haven’t noticed. Science is observation and Africa produces no scientists”

In Karen Joy Fowler’s “What I didn’t see” I saw racism and anthropocentrism as the two concepts that create the very ethical issues which plague the entire story. From the very beginning I found racism against Africans to be blatantly obvious due to how the narrator referred to the African males she encountered. “The men who helped us interested me little and impressed me not at all”. The negative treatment of the Africans is illustrated not only by the narrator but by how the entire team treats the porters whom help them.

This discrimination towards the Africans and their stereotypical association with gorillas appears to be an almost unconscious common western ideology that the narrator is unaware she has. Because the narrator and the rest of the team seem mostly naïve to recognize their own bigotry towards the natives and are focused on the capture/ freeing of the gorillas, I found it surprising that Eddie’s reasoning behind the killing of the gorillas was a ploy to stop the mass murders of Africans by the Europeans.

The killing of the gorillas in order to save the lives of the Africans whom could be killed for the murder of Beverly is where I also found the idea of anthropocentrism as a main concept which is an underlying theme in the entire story. In my opinion, I believe the entire search for the Gorilla in the story was a ploy for the researchers to receive recognition into the museum that was referred to frequently in the story. Although I think in some degree the group did care and show sympathy for the killing of the women in the village and wanted the huntings of the gorillas to stop for positive reasons, I found the massacre of gorillas at the end a prime example of anthropocentrism. This concept is enforced at the end of the story because inevitably the men found it easier to kill off the entire primate group of gorillas in order to save humans whom continue to work for them and they are able to control.


The Evening and the Morning and the Night

Octavia Butler’s “The Evening and the Morning and the Night” is an entrancing and uncanny short story about a fearsome inherited disease which causes people to both eat and mutilate themselves and others. Butler introduces this disease in the story as a side effect caused by the treatment patients obtained which resulted in finding the cure for cancer, making the premise of Butler’s story especially realistic considering society’s current fascination with finding the cure for cancer. Butler’s story not only seems to possibly address the backlash of modern medicine and testing, but also forces readers to ask themselves what side effects/lengths will our society accept in order to find the cure to the one disease that has killed millions?

One of the most interesting concepts I found in the story was Butler’s decision to have only women in the story hold the power to help others with the Duryea-Gode disease. This gift that only women whom inherit the disease from both parents are capable of having allows Butler to develop strong, female prophetic characters such as Lynn and Beatirce whom strive to create a community similar to the character of Lauren in another Butler story I’ve read called Parable of the Sower.

Although Butler does raise gender issues by having only women hold the gift of pheromone, I feel the entire story is focused more around issues of biology and genetics compared to race or gender. This is found by the overall premise of the disease being obtained when people with the disease procreate. The question of why people who suffer from DGD procreate is seen often in the novel, while the overall issue of people being genetically “different” is also one of Lynn’s characters main issues. The alienation that occurs between Lynn and others who suffer from DGD and the rest of the society is caused not by race, gender, or even financially, but by the difference in their behavior due to the disease. One main example of this is shown when Lynn discusses being immediately alienated by people when they see the emblem she is forced to wear due to the disease.


Woman On The Edge Of Time

Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time was an outlandish story that kept me feeling perplexed and sometimes skeptical throughout the novel. From the very first time Connie described coming into contact with Luciente and then finally arriving at Mattapoisett, it was clear to me as a reader that she was obviously mentally ill. After reading the novel I believe Mattapoisett is an imaginary place created due to the continuous lack of explanation on how Connie and Luciente were able to communicate and travel to eachother’s worlds to the incessant “coincidences” of Connie only traveling to Mattapoisett when she is upset over the reality of her past actions, her current circumstance of being in the mental institution, or under the hospitals drugs.

 Because I felt it was obvious that Connie was creating Luciente and Mattapoisett in her head and that she was mentally ill, I was confused throughout most of the novel on what the main themes were the author wanted the reader to get out of the story. The main ideas that I found most prevalent were the obvious environmental issues being raised through the descriptions of Mattapoisett compared to the world now, and the overall subject of how gender, race, and mental stability were all defining factors in how people in the society Connie lives in are treated.

Every time Connie transported to Mattapoisett in the novel, environmental issues are raised commonly by Luciente, who criticizes Connie’s generation’s inability to sustain a successful environment. Issues such as air pollution, recycling, and agriculture are all main fundamentals Luciente’s community in 2137 thrive at, while Luciente condemns Connie and her generation for causing such a environmental crisis in the past.The emphasis on gender, race, and mental stability was another significant element that I took away from the book. I found it interesting that every description Connie gave always appeared to center around how a person fit against the majority society of white, male, and sane. Connie’s initial description of a person in the book always described their racial features, mental state, and many times their sexuality. This is illustrated in how she describes many of the patients she encounters as she waits to be interviewed and tested while at the mental institution.


“Wives”

Lisa Tuttle’s 1979 short story “Wives” was an incredibly feminist story. I felt the story illustrated the extreme depths males will go to, to maintain sexual, physical, and mental power over the female race; even if that includes forcing another species such as aliens to physically replicate the body and behavior of a stereotypical wife.  The main concept I found prevalent in the story was the impression that the basis of the whole story was centered on an androcentric ideology.

The ideology of everything focusing on the men, and the idea that women must succeed at nothing other than household duties was palpable from the beginning of the story. One example of this is in the beginning of the story when readers are only introduced to the female/alien characters as simply “Jack’s wife”, or “the wife woke up”. This demonstrates that in the culture the female aliens are forced to live in, everything including their identity must revolve around the men or else they are forced to kill each other out of fear that the “savage-like” men will destroy them all.

Although I felt some of the story’s plot was a little extreme with the description of the skintights the aliens wore to maintain womanly bodies, I thought the overall concept of men being represented as cruel, egotistical oppressors whom invaded the aliens planet was an interesting twist to attack the domestic roles the male dominated culture put on women. One key example of the negative male representation is shown in the last scene when Jack the husband comes home and basically says having breasts and coffee are the greatest things after war. This proves to readers of the novel that although the “female” characters in the story are aliens, even they remain more sensible compared to the men that base their lives around sex and combat. Further, the male obsession with continuous superiority over women appears to be ridiculed in many ways by Tuttle’s decision to use aliens, proving that men will go to any means to maintain a patriarchal society and act as tyrants.


“Created He Them”

Alice Eleanor Jones’ “He Created Them” gives a far more appealing depiction of a woman’s role as a housewife than any other story I have read. I found the viewpoints of Ann and Henry in the story to be a direct result of their society’s views on the roles and importance of women and men. Due to Ann not only being a woman but a woman who holds the power to create healthy children which appears to be a rare and sought after gift in their society, both society and Henry appear to expect Ann to act submissive to men and the government. This expected submissiveness is clearly shown in Henry’s requirement that Ann must always be sexually available to him when needed, and Ann being forced to give each of her children away to the government with zero questions asked.

Due to the compliance society and Henry expect from her, Ann’s view differs from Henry because instead of feeling she is acting as a good citizen, she instead feels anger and resentment towards men and the society in general for the situation she and her children are in. While Ann feels unhappy and opposition against the family’s predicament, Henry views their situation as acceptable due to his apparent respect for their government. Due to Henry’s position as a dominant and smart man, he is able to manipulate and control his co-workers and the interaction with Ann.

If Henry was to act as the stories narrator, I feel the story would lack the depth that Ann’s character brings to the story because Henry’s viewpoint would leave out the hostility and vulnerability that captures readers’ attention. Ann’s role as the narrator is important to the story due to it being the only tool readers have to hear her characters opinions and thoughts because she is forced to act obedient and dense while dealing with Henry and the duties her society has put upon her.


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