Andrea & Addie

Andrea Dworkin has died at 59. One of my male students in freshman comp loved to quote her – he hoped her violent, graphic, sexual remarks would shock me. (I was more irritated by his lack of annotations, which made it close to plagiarism.) I haven’t read her widely, so perhaps I unfairly associate her obituary with the papers I was grading tonight. But she did articulate one of the threads of the angry feminist vision. Those ideas have gained remarkable currency: by the time students are sophomores in college, despite the fact that the generalizations in no way explain reality or literature, they apply them with abandon.

So, tonight my student explains Addie Bundren of As I Lay Dying; she was trapped by “societal standards.” She was, my student says, forced into a loveless marriage. The forcing is left vague, since it is clearly her purpose to mate with the feckless Anse, driven by the bubbling spring, the honking of the geese. Perhaps this girl has yet to feel the pull of nature, or, perhaps, she interprets that as society. Unable to express her “self-awareness and personal achievement” in this restrictive society is a problem of Addie’s “generation.” My student has little sense yet, perhaps, that she, too, is likely to face the tragic nature of life if she thinks about it. The world didn’t change in 1968; she, too, will find that “self-awareness and personal achievement” are pretty complicated; they can be gained in the world of Faulkner as well as the world of HBO’s Manhatten, in raising children as well as in the business world. And wherever they are gained, they will cost pain and give pleasure. Addie, indeed, understands that. But, in this reading, I see the results of a movement that denies Addie her strength as well as her vices, that determines that this quite sad and in some ways sympathetic but above all sadistic, self-contained, and angry woman is a victim. If Euro Yank were around, he could legitimately call this whining. But most of all it simplifies & degrades the literature it touches.

4 thoughts on “Andrea & Addie”

  1. Perhaps a more discursive explanation of the thoughts in the 2nd paragraph would be more understandable.

    Although any time someone brings up Faulkner, I can only think of the 8 or 9 pages of word salad in one novel of his (I haven’t the vaugest idea of which one), that was explained to us as the idiot Ike Snopes raping a cow, when I took Hum 2 back in the last millennium. It was the first, last, and only work of Faulkner’s that I have or ever will read.

  2. Addie is, well, a bitch. She hates the children she teaches and beats them so that she will have left a mark on them–this is her way of being sure she exists. She does not like, in fact, totally ignores, three of her five children. She decides early in her marriage that her husband, lying beside her, is dead and just doesn’t know he is dead. She extracts from him a promise to haul her body across the county when she dies – which is what the whole book is about. One of the two children she actually likes, in his case adores, is by her adulterous affair with a minister – what she finds seductive about him is that he comes to her clothed in his profession he puts off to heed the wild call of the blood. Thinking of such a woman as a victim of society’s conventions is to ignore almost every word in the book.

  3. Ginny, you write words like feathers fold on the breast of a dove.
    (I’ve wanted to write that to you for months.)

    But, like R. Schwarz, I choke on Faulkner. I need periods for my brain to congeal a writer’s wordy fat.

    But, ah, “the wild call of the blood.” This is the bane that so much modern thought strives to bannish. The weakness of modern Feminism is laid bare when one delves into the Nature of propagation, its cellular drive, and the sacrifices that a modernist self-determination must concede to its mandate.

    I pity the person, male or female, who subsists past her thirties, without relenting to this reality.

  4. Steve, thanks for your kind words; I suspect most of the time nature wills out and few need your sympathy – its strong, which is good since it, as you observe, has to work against feminism and the kind of solipsism modern thought encourages.

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