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Mother to the tribe
November 27, 1996
Mother To The Tribe
Throughout time people have been questioning their society. Many wonder if the beliefs and customs of their culture are actually what is in the interest of themselves or even the masses. Times of hardship can create strong and powerful people to bring about change; however the means to achieve such is relevant to ones morals or ethics. For many would agree utilitarianism is the best route to take when trying to appease most individuals; however what can be the consequences of such "happiness"? Marge Piercy attempts to create a utopian society that practices this idea, but to achieve such a success many present social beliefs must be annihilated. Mothering plays a major theme in Piercy’s novel Woman on the Edge of Time. She not only uses a mother as the main character, but creates a whole utopian society based on the mother. Piercy contributes this novel as a political statement to address the hardships and social injustices of the powerless. Woman on the Edge of Time is a story of a middle aged Chicano woman who has been denied the right to live with the socially prudent. According to Kevstin Shands, Piercy says: "It is primarily a novel about Connie. There’s a lot about social injustice in it, and about how a woman stops hating herself and becomes able to love herself enough to fight for her own survival" (66). In Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time the motif of mothering is the basis of the story; she uses a mother as the protagonist and creates a utopian society based on the strength of the nurturing.
To see how the mother theme is woven throughout the story one must observe how Connie is in the present, as well as the future. In the present Connie is considered a degenerate. She has grown to be a woman that is rejected by society because she is uneducated, Hispanic, poor, and more importantly female. The future world is one that contradicts the present. It is the utopia that embraces Connies’ passive and submissive qualities; intern causing Connie to break free from the oppression of the modern times by giving her a feeling of self worth.
In the beginning chapter Piercy establishes the character Connie Ramos as a very sensitive nurturer. With the entrance of Dolly, Connie’s niece, we see Connie play the role as mother to the distraught and beaten niece. "Awkwardly Connie embraced her [Dolly’s] shoulders, her hands slipping on the satin of her blouse" ( 9). Piercy’s description here causes the reader to view this scene as soothing; her use of the sensual words like embrace and slipping on the satin bring a feeling of relief; for Dolly is now safe from harm. Piercy further describes Connie’s care to Dolly as follows: "She undressed Dolly tenderly as a baby, but her niece groaned and cursed and wept more" (11). This is a very important line. The nurturing act is not received as positive. This negativity is not only due to the pain Dolly is feeling, but is representative of Connie being rejected as a mother in the modern time. When Geraldo arrives Dolly and her unborn child are threatened. His plans to abort the baby encourage the nurturing mother instinct within Connie to protect her helpless niece. Elaine Hansen describes the scene:
The instrument of violence she chooses- presumably because it is nearest to hand- carries marked symbolic weight. As we learn a little later, the bottle, one of the few decorations in Connie’s bleak two-room flat, contained dried flowers and grasses gathered on a rare family outing, a picnic with her estranged brother, Luis, her niece Dolly, and Dolly’s baby daughter Nita. What Connie remembers most about this picnic is that Nita, just learning to walk, fell asleep in her arms, and that she was allowed to hold her: "She had sat on the blanket burning, transfigured with holding that small sweet-breathing flush-faced morsel" (WET 34). It is the erotic, sensual, "transfiguring" possibility of holding an infant that Connie unwittingly throws away, in effect, when she scatters the "nostalgic grasses" (WET 16) and breaks the wine jug over Geraldo’s nose. At the same time, in committing this act
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Woman on the Edge of Time, Marge Piercy, Piercy, Connie, Utopia, He, She and It
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