The Story and the Living, Meridel Le Sueur’s The Girl West End Press. [1984]

 

Memory is all we got, I cried, we got to remember.  We got to remember everything. It is the glory, Amelia said, the glory.  We got to remember to be able to fight.  Got to write down the names.  Make a list.  Nobody can be forgotten.  They know if we don't remember we can't point them out.  They got their guilt wiped out.  The last thing they take is memory.  Remember, Amelia say, the breasts of your mothers.  O mama help us now.—The Girl, (192)

 

           The book is in essence conflict (not always opposition), not only because change and process are conflict but because Meridel Le Sueur’s The Girl, written in 1939, is still not settled into any comfortable stasis within the literary tradition.  True classics never do, or never remain there long.  The Girl is not a classic.  An unknown classic is a contradiction of the language.  That it will become a classic is in doubt only if our literature is in doubt.  The question is not will we fail to recognize the worth of this novel but whether we fail to establish that larger tradition within which this novel will find a place of worth. It will not become a classic because of any critical attention, this essay is not propaganda for it, but because of its influence on readers and writers and because of their influence on the culture that has up until recently effectively kept it hidden. In other words, the novel has the chance of being accepted within the tradition if the tradition is recovered and seen anew.  But this larger conflict is not my immediate concern even though it cannot be ignored that the past critical betrayal of The Girl is an indictment of the literary establishment—meaning the critics and reviewers not all of whom are academics but who have distorted the esthetic judgment so that any work is pronounced flawed that has the possibility of altering the society's status quo.

          I am intrigued by The Girl for several reasons but the main one—the one that draws me back to successive re-readings—is the story.  It is the story that has been denied us till now.  The Girl helps rescue from oblivion a significant portion of our language.  This story, like all true stories, continues to inform us now.  This is one reason why Le Sueur is a hero to a large and growing number of female readers.  But considering sex as the issue does not reveal the main significance of the story nor is it primarily developed along class lines.  The story is significant now because the way it was told—how form and content are not separable—becomes a model for a renewed literature that puts the lie to the prevailing esthetic prejudice that an art of the people is necessarily simplistic.

          It is the internal complexities of The Girl that reveal the worth of the characters because of the novel being true —in a way very few novels that attempt realism have ever been true—to the story of those characters.  In the afterward to the West End Press edition of The Girl Le Sueur explains how various essential parts of the story were given her by her friends who lived them.  The story is a collective, then, instead of solely the artist’s imposition of the tyranny of the imagination.  It is her being faithful to the dynamics of the people's stories that has kept process and conflict integral to the artistry—and hence recognizable—and hence true.

 

one.  Baseball, Cats, and Booya

 

BOOYA

Ganz asked for you.  He wants you to bring him his Booya. (3)

 

Women as meat.  This is not a revelation.  Playboy magazine and its imitators demonstrate that.  Only a woman, however, could tell us how pervasive is the identification.  In this, then, Le Sueur is sectarian.  But it is a sectarianism born from love not the impulse to divide and conquer.  The fact that a man could not reveal all of these identifications should move us to give thanks that this woman has done so.

 

Stirring the Booya pot so it wouldn’t stick, Clara said, you might find that rich guy here you know, or a movie director or a talent scout.... (2)

Making the woman into a whore in her own mind to feed the man with her body.

...a pot of gold....(2)

(f so, what is the rainbow?  Can it be how a woman can see herself?  Sometimes.  With support from other women.)

 

Women as money.  Of course.  But most of all a thing to consume. Meat.

 

O, Clara was so pretty with a little heart-shaped face and white soft skin she greased every night. (2)

 

(Belle)...so big, with dyed red hair and white skin....(2)

 

(Clara) Anyhow, kid, she said.  I think I’m getting used looking.  I can’t speak to ‘em like I used to when they thought they was getting chicken. (58)

 

(the Girl) What would we eat?  I said.

I’d eat you, Butch said.  You’re sweet.  (65)

 

Women as meat is only one aspect of this society's need to turn us all into objects but it is made explicit and can be seen even without a defined ideology when that act infects all relations between women and men, women and mothers, women and women.

 

 Emily (the Girl's mother), she trades a hand-made rug for a sheep so her family can eat.

 

It’s a fierce feeling you have for your husband and children like you could feed them your body, and chop yourself up into little pieces.  The stew boiled over, sizzled...Ah, what a meal.... (43)

 

 ...opened the shed door and there it hung straight from its two feet tied together and the place bleeding where I had cut out a piece for stew. (41)

 

(Butch) All right, let your blood out, open the gates! (40)

 

(the Girl) I read all the sandwich signs, american cheese, chickenhamporkcoffeemilkbuttermilktomatolettucetomatohotbeef. They looked like signs like lovehatejealousymarriage. (49)

 

(Butch) My God, he said, There’s blood on the sheet.  You're bleeding. (52)

 

The woman as sacrificial lamb. Again, this is not new.  Not invention.  And because it is not, it is all that much more powerful as more is revealed to us.  Le Sueur is not inventing things to stimulate our imagination; she is revealing back to us what we already know, in fact what we, that larger thing we aspire to—a community, have told her.  Her artistry is to tune the language so that it reveals meaning at every turn, where every turn can effectively move us.  And it is because of this possibility for moving that a world of difference exists between a crude joke that identifies a carrot with the cock and the scene Le Sueur presents.  That difference is art because of the faith she maintains in language as a bond common to us all.

 

(Belle, consoling the Girl, talking of her “initiation” with Butch.  Belle, thirteen abortions.) If she don't feel good, Belle hooted. Nevermind, the first time is the hardest and when is the last time?  Put more carrots in, Amelia, I got all those horse carrots at the market, they're strong but good.  (57)

 

(“I got all those horse carrots at the market....” 

The Market.  The market place.  Stock market.  Prostitution.  The endless reverberations of a common theme when the writer opens herself to these stories.)

 

Woman as meat.  But this is not, can not be, an isolated theme.  Intimate to it is the denial of a woman’s true story.  Le Sueur, in the writing of The Girl, gives us that story but she also records the loss of countless other stories.  And directly connected to that loss is abortion.  Again, recurring in another guise—woman as meat.

 

(Belle) My luck, the first time and I got into trouble.  He gave me a little money and I come to St. Paul where for ten bucks they'd stick a huge vet’s needle into you and start it and then your on your own.  I tell you many farm girls died in the slaughter houses of St. Paul.  I was lucky it come out that night and I wrapped it in a copy of the St. Paul Dispatch and threw it in the river. (54)

 

 

(A dead fetus and a dead story.  As an aside, Meridel Le Sueur on language teaching: “The academy has imposed it so terribly; all the poets who come from the academy—Tate and all those—they’re really manipulators to seduce you....They’ve done a good job of killing all that kind of naming, or rhythm and speech, putting it into that grammatical, horrible noose.... (Quindaro 8-9, (28))

 

Woman as meat is only one of the several themes that occur, recur, mix, are submerged into the fabric of the ongoing story that is as complex as an elaborate musical composition that serves literature ‑‑thinking of, for instance, Zukofsky’s use of Beethoven in A—yet is not made overly complex through literary manipulations. (Quindaro, again, this time a manifesto,: “In my time the professors at the university taught ambiguity, ruined farmer’s children teaching ambiguity, how not to mean anything” (4).  The student in the class.  The girls on the tables.) The theme is directly stated when the character needs to be explicit to reveal it to herself to ward off the assault of that theme each day.

 

(Amelia) They get your blood and bones one way or another. What are we?  Just goods to be bought and sold?  Yes, she answered herself cursing, that's what they think, buy and sell you and then use your body after you're dead!  It's too bad, it's too bad they can't kill our babies and eat them like suckling pigs.  What tender meat that would be!  Stuffed babies with mushrooms.  Why not? (135)

 

This explicit use of the language is just one aspect of the language that has been denied us in our literature.  What has been considered as progressive and avant-garde has usually been merely a liberal promotion of the market system that quickly turned “obscenity” into a commodity.  Effective language, language of change, has been kept hidden.  And the effect on our literature has been worse for that.  The literature has been impoverished because the stories have been distorted.  The distortion has also been to benefit the artists most firmly entrenched in the existing market system—whether it be the commercial or academic markets.  The results have been the same—only the male story gets told.  The female becomes merely the muse.  Woman as meat to feed the (predominantly male) artist.

 

(Amelia) They stuff you up with fine words and then they stick you in the stomach like a pig. (136)

 

CATS

 

Booya is woman-meat.  Cats is man-thing.  Cats is also symbol. But most of all cats is man: man-made thing.  Feeding on meat.

 

...Booya.  It’s an elegant stew of chicken and veal and beef and every kind of vegetable and you cook it all night and all day very, very slow and it gets to smelling even out on the street and the cats look in the window. (1)

 

Voyeurs. Peeping Tom-cat-ism.  The back-alley man.  Alley cats.

 

Clara told me all about what was going on up there and it scared me—the men who came in the back alley door and went past the bar and upstairs scared me. (p.1)

 

And Clara would take my place when Belle told me to take them beer, because she said she could “field” them better when they tried to make a homerun or a strike with their too‑free paws. (1)

 

It is not surprising to see men portrayed as beasts.

 

 ...and Butch looked smooth and sleepy as if about to spring like a cat. (4)

 

What is surprising, because it is so rare a thing, is the sympathy and the refusal to make the too easy comparisons.  Cats is also woman.

 

I liked to see Belle at the bar shaking dice and the big cat Sussybelly in a big bow by the register, with a piggy bank beside her full of money from the bets being put down on how many cats she would pop....(2)

 

Cats is woman turned by man into a thing.

 

Clara said, Look at that now.  Cats get better care than humans.  She got a cup of milk a day. (6)

 

Then later, Clara forced into shock therapy.  Mind gone but body still starved for milk.  The women rally making milk for Clara the issue.  The Hearst Milk Fund is a recurring bad joke.  Readers looking for a literature that redeems itself through irony will get more than enough irony though little redemption.  Redemption is harder to realize.  It comes through values outside of the inner complexities of the novel.  It comes through working for changing the cause of the need for irony.

 

The cat-as-woman identification points to the larger theme of birth, birth against a system that imposes death.  This is the difference between this identity and the other, Cats-is-men.  Amelia sees the necessity for the identification because she sees through but beyond the immediate social concerns.

She’s female like us, Amelia said, She don’t know the father.  She gives all she's got to make them come out whole healthy full of seed. (6)

 

The hope for the future.  It is this living thing posed against the constant attempt illustrated by Cats-is-man to stifle and control it that gives these symbols a dynamism seldom seen in our literature. Once again the issue becomes “Who controls the story, and why?”  We know who has controlled it in the past.  Thankfully this is changing somewhat.  But even now the issue is still language.  Man is cat / controller / eating as opposed to Woman is cat / giver / birthing.

 

The gangster offers money for a “piece” of the girl.  To buy her out to shut (plug) her up.

 

Ganz said, Jesus what a coat.  You could have a good coat. Cat got your tongue? (63)

 

 

BASEBALL

 

Tragically frightened, men fear authentic relationships and even the possibility of their existence. On the other hand, fearing solitude, they gather in groups lacking any critical and loving ties which might transform them into a cooperating unit, into a true community.  “Gregariousness is always the refuge of mediocrities,” said Nikolai Nikolaievich Vedeniapin in Dr. Shivago.  It is also an imprisoning armor which prevents men from loving.

—Paolo Freire, Education for Critical Consciousness

 

Baseball is a man’s game and a man’s entertainment. A sport that quickly turns the living drama into numbers where each player is ranked into a hierarchy modeling the paternal business ordering that is the reality informed by the abstraction called progress.  There are many types of progress.  Some include time in an authentic enlargement of opportunity based upon the past struggles of people—hence, the realization that personal sacrifice for the benefit of others is not a deception.  The other kind of progress, the dominant kind in our culture, feeds on the illusion of bettering the lot of everyone to the real enrichment of the few.  The push of modern medical research for such practices as heart transplants utilizing funds for community health is only one of the more pronounced and pathological examples.  More to the point of this story is the association of baseball with progress up the social ladder.  Baseball equals making it.  And making it means accepting, and promoting, the kind of competition that insures that for someone to progress others have to be walked over.

 

Progress is the underlying mythos of the capitalist system which demands expansion because without it it will die.  To insure its own survival, especially in periods when it is nearly fatally sickened, the promotion of the myth of progress is virulent.  And although big business is the spokesman for the myth it knows that internal co‑operation guarantees its success if it can also confuse its potential opposition.  It is, then, fitting that the character who completely accepts the idea of Progress is the ex‑ballplayer, Butch.  Butch who dies after being shot while robbing a bank—trapped within the slave mentality of unquestioningly accepting  an idea that destroys him.  Butch the robber.  Not like Ganz the gangster and petty capitalist.  Nor is he an outlaw who understands the system and inadvertently fights against it. He is just a desperate robber‑to‑be and ex‑ballplayer living in illusions that only benefit a society bent on using, discarding, or killing him.

         

We’re natural winners.  You should have seen us playing ball. Our old man didn’t want us to play on Sundays.  We used to pray that ball right over home plate. I used to say to that ball, Go on baby do good. (5)

 

Baseball as business as religion.  The militant Calvinists who infused capitalism with justification from god couldn't have invented a more appropriate game.

 

[On December 30, 1907 a committee of baseball executives and 2 U.S. senators determined that Abner Doubleday had conducted the first baseball game, in 1839, at Cooperstown, New York.  It is appropriate to my story that Doubleday had gained some fame in the expansionist campaign against Mexico and later for the Union army in the Civil War.  It is also worth mentioning that the official version had it that the first players were military cadets under Doubelday’s instruction.  As much as the executives, the senators, the military would like to lay claim to the invention of the national pastime, it was a people's game played more than a century before.  Doubleday imposed strict rules upon it.  In this, Doubleday is similar to the grammarian attempting to control the language of the people, to impose an institutional order upon the living activity.]

 

Assuming that Butch is baseball is capitalism and that capitalism must expand to survive, what is Butch's hope for the future? 

 

Gee, honey, I’m crazy about you, you’re so sweet.  We'll have some land, we’ll get fat with roses in your cheeks and then we can have that ball player, fat and sassy. (25)

 

No longer “only” a person, Butch IS baseball.

 

Well, you’re looking at me, he said, the handsomest ballplayer in the league ain’t that so boys! (77)

 

But so is every man in the novel.  They are all joined in this fake community, this mere gregariousness (...ain’t that so boys?) that keeps them united on a superficial level to substitute for a unity that will threaten the economic system.  Butch’s brother is also a ball player.  And it is the two of them who get jobs as scabs.  And the brother is killed in the riot resulting from the attempts at strike-breaking.   And then there is Joe, the girl’s brother, whose language is not even his own, so complete has the process of dreaming and subservience undercut his ability to act.

 

Mama, if I was a millionaire I'd take you on a spree, I’d buy you some candy and crackerjacks I don't care if we never come back. (39)

 

This is not, however, a fatalistic picture.  One time the identification of baseball and progress is shown to be a way of genuine advancement.  It is within a community struggle for and with each other.

 

(Belle) Kid you should have seen the demonstration, hundreds outside the courthouse and the cops threw teargas out the windows and some of those ballplayers caught the bombs and threw them right back and kid you should have seen those bureaucrats, like rats, pouring out of the building and the street littered with those leaflets saying Milk and Iron Pills for Clara. (145)

 

The difficulty, realizing the opposition and then realizing just who it is you are playing the game for, how to transfer those skills for your own liberation, is that the language has been debased.  Since she is a woman, the Girl cannot completely enter into the man’s specially coded language since it excludes her and hence denies them a source of strength that could save them from themselves.

 

(The Girl, after her first intercourse, not love-making) Had Butch won, struck a foul, throw a homerun, made the bases or struck out?  How could you ever know? (53)

 

The Girl does not finally need to know because she has not been as thoroughly victimized by the distortion of her language.  With Butch it has become complete.  So much so that it is a flaw, and a flaw we all suffer under to varying degrees, that makes Butch a tragic character (and which expresses some of the qualities that name this a tragic age).  Butch never learns.  His total acceptance of progress has undone him.  He hasn't the language to express even the loss that he knows is upon him.  As he bleeds to death he says, “Where are we going?  It’s got to show soon.  What are we looking forward to?  You got to believe in the future” (107).

 

two.  The Philosophy of Beating

 

[When America’s greatest revivalist preacher, Billy Sunday, entered New York on April 7, 1917, the day after the U.S. declared war on Germany, it was the occasion of his greatest triumph.  He was to play to his biggest crowds, bigger than the ones that had cheered him at the Polo Grounds during his baseball playing days.  Sunday had an immense popular following but sold himself to business and government interests that used him to confuse the workingmen and divide the people.  Naturally, he was in great demand as a strike-breaker.  This time he was in New York to help the American war effort.  When he exited from the train at Grand Central Station he walked over to J.D. Rockefeller and put his hand around his shoulders and said, “Hello old chap!”]

 

For Butch, for the revivalist preacher, for the capitalist, the world is a ball.  Something to be manipulated for their own personal end.  Each has accepted and promoted the conjunction of religion and business.  For the capitalist the world is a neutral object to be made meaningful through treating it as a commodity infused with value by transformation of the material into something to sell.  The revivalist seeks transformation of the real into the abstract moral value that he can control.  Butch, the confused would-be petty bourgeoisie —always looking to have a gas station of his own to manage—baseball was his only personal transformation, his only realization of success: a success that is after all so similar to the other two in that it approximates a rape, this need to be “on top of the world.”

 

(Butch) I like to beat everybody in the world....Sure, beating’s everything.  Everything there is.  Do you know winning is better than anything, than anything at all.  When I used to play baseball I liked to beat.  I was a good player.  Jesus, my old man didn't want me to play baseball on Sunday. I used to pray to that ball, yeah man, I'd pray.  I used to say to that ball, go on baby, do good!  Yes, I got to be better than anybody, better than anybody at all.  When you play ball you pray, that's the way I pray now, to be better than anybody.  When you play ball you pray, those balls come over in the inside and connect.  That's what I'm going to do. Let it come to me world, and connect. (16)

 

 

The philosophy of beating is the cult of the individual.  It marks, more than anything else does, the difference between the men and the women in The Girl.  Men are the individualists, the rugged capitalists modeled on the robber baron image.  Women are co‑operative, the emerging socialism, and an image of a primitive tribalism.  In The Girl the conflict is illustrated through the difference between balls and eggs.

 

(Butch) It takes guts, he said, that’s what it is, to go through the night.  You got to be tough and strong alone.

 

(the Girl) I don’t like it alone, I said.  I don’t want to be alone.  I want to be with others.

 

He looked at me.  Gee, women are funny eggs, he said, my mother’s a screwy dame too! (17)

 

The incompatibility of balls and eggs is shown best in the language Butch uses when the Girl becomes playful.  The slightest threat to the pathological type masculinity that Butch has adopted has him react to the Girl’s spontaneity by turning her from a “sister” to a whore.

 

You egged me on, he said, you got me going, now it’s your fault.  You got to take the consequences.

 

I was surprised.

 

You got to take your medicine, he said, you egged me on.   You did it on purpose.  You got me riled up now.  You can’t say I wasn’t treating you like a sister and then you jumps out of the car runs like a harlot. (27)

 

It is in his attitude toward women and his unquestioning acceptance of the myth of making it in America, which amounts in practice to the same thing, that Butch becomes the Girl’s father becomes Ganz becomes every male figure either trapped or using their limited power to subjugate women.  It is the attitude that denies Butch sisterhood with women. 

 

(on the Girl's father)  He wanted to be king, to boss, she said.  Because he was a failure he wanted others to be so that they wouldn't be better than him. (36)

 

(Stasia, the Girl’s sister)  He beat me before people.  Now he’ll never beat me again.  I'm glad he's dead. (37)

 

(the Girl dreaming)  I didn’t want to sleep, I dreamed about it every night.  It was Butch in the grave instead of papa and they would both be after me to beat me up and mama would hide me. (46)

 

I seem always to return to this.  The story.  And who should tell it.  Who can tell it truly.  And who has been preventing them from telling it.

 

(the Girl)  I didn’t feel good.  I cried.  Butch got mad and slapped me. (47)

 

I remember my father always in anger, putting on his pants, leaving, yelling obscenities and coming back later, drunk, when he often beat mama, and it didn't sound too different from love‑making.  (51)

 

Instead of answering he struck me full in the face....(83)

 

...Don’t Butch, I whispered, someone will see. I could see his hand lifted, this time in a fist and it struck me in the mouth.... (83)

 

If the Girl is the potential writer, the possible teller of stories, what kind of stories can she write?  Who will they be written for?  And why?  Much of this is answered in the very writing of this novel, but what is certain within the novel itself is that the Girl will not be bent to serve the market system that is attempting to destroy her.  Momentarily confused she sells herself thinking it the right thing to do, the only thing that will guarantee Butch's love for her, then she realizes the full extent of what she has risked.

 

I saw the ten dollars.  I reached up and Hone put his hands around my waist. I felt like somebody was hitting me on the top of the head with a wallet driving me into the earth, driving me deep down and I would never see anything more but darkness....Ganz suddenly brought his huge mutilated hand back and struck me full in the face. (70)

 

 

Sisterhood

 

I wanted to find Belle and Amelia and Clara and my mama. (53)

 

After giving herself to Butch and realizing he had nothing to give to her except the baby forming inside her, which was not given but which she unknowingly took from him, she turns for help to those able, in spite of all, to give it.

 

Leave her alone, Belle said.

No, Amelia says, nobody is alone.  I’m glad you came here if you don't feel good.  (52)

 

[When do you know when to stop analyzing?  I look at this fragment and see a skill whether deliberate or unconscious, “natural”, that uses the past tense “said” to imply not only Belle’s character, her partial acceptance of sisterhood and her partial acceptance of domination under Hoink, but also to show in contrast with Amelia’s “says” that the attitude of leaving each other alone is no longer possible, the belief and the acting on the belief that no one is alone is ongoing, is present tense.]

 

(Amelia) Why, she said, you will have a child and then you will belong to the whole earth.

 

I looked at her. She was the first person who seemed to be glad of it.

I feel so lonely, I said.

Oh stuff, she cried, why you aren't alone now, she laughed.... (112)

 

It is obvious that the philosophy of beating is the philosophy of capitalism.  Men embody that philosophy.  But The Girl is not so naive a story as to draw the lines between men and women so firmly based on such a simplistic analog.  I do not know what Meridel Le Sueur's connection is with Marxism.  I suspect that her brand of socialism would find little favor in the Soviet Union, though probably not as little as has been shown her by the official so‑called culture in her own country.  The cooperative attitudes displayed in The Girl seem more a realization of an intuitive tribalism than anything based on rigid systems.

 

Amelia said, It isn’t the man.  A man is a might fine thing, there is nothing better than a man.  It's the way we have to live that makes us sink to the bottom and rot. (112)

 

The system.  If Marxism can help to bring down that system, then Marxism.  But there is something more basic, more positive, more spiritual, than any western philosophy, which all are basically philosophies of beating, that seems to inform Le Sueur's work.  I am thinking now of how the attack on the women in The Girl parallels the attempt by the government to kill the American Indian culture through sterilizing the women—attacking fertility itself.  Under the guise of liberal concern about over population, it is continuing a policy of genocide begun at Plymouth over 300 years ago.

 

[The Government Accounting Office report released Nov. 23, 1977:  Indian Health Service performed 3,406 sterilizations on Indian women in Aberdeen, South Dakota, Albuquerque, Oklahoma City, and Phoenix in 1973‑1976....According to Dr. Uri, more than 25 percent of all Indian women have been sterilized since 1962....36 sterilizations were performed on women under 21 years of age indirect violation of the provisions of the 1974 court order that prohibits such operations on minors....two girls had been sterilized at age 15 before they had yet had children....they thought they were having appendectomies....]

 

Le Sueur’s fundamental theme of the need for women to retain their fertility, to continue the process of birth and through that process “belong to the whole earth” puts her more in the membership of the Pequods who first resisted the European invasion than in any European sectarian group.

 

Miss Rice came in and smiled.  Maybe if she hadn’t smiled it would have been all right.  Maybe if she hadn’t handed me that paper right at that moment and said, just a little routine matter, we want you to sign this, and I saw the word sterilization on it, and we want to give you some tests, she said, just a routine matter. (129)

 

Just a routine matter.  The expulsion of the Abenakis from Maine in 1722.  King Phillip's War.  1678, Great Swamp Massacre.  1698. A familiar catalog of horrors.  Wounded Knee 1870.  Wounded Knee 1973.  The current struggle to take the Black Hills for uranium, for atomic weapons.  No, they are not familiar stories.  They should be.  And the most current one is the least familiar.  Amelia saying, the “stories must be remembered.”

 

You don’t have anything

          if you don't have the stories.

          Their evil is mighty

          but it can't stand up to our stories.

          So they try to destroy the stories

          let the stories be confused or forgotten.

          They would like that

          they would be happy

          Because we would be defenseless then.

 

This from a contemporary Indian woman writer, Leslie Silko, Ceremony, (2). 

[Is it more than just a coincidence that modern “serious” fiction has become less and less interested in the story and more preoccupied with form at the same time of not only easy access to but active promotion of sterilization by the liberal consumer culture?]

 

Keeping the story alive means keeping the birth process alive.  The story is not a substitute for the birth.  They are the same.

 

I opened my pocketbook and looked in the mirror, and read a leaflet from the Workers Alliance, but I kept thinking ‑‑what did Butch want?  He was playing the wrong game.  They were trying to win ‑‑what?  It was the wrong hold up, the wrong home run. It was funny but I kept thinking and feeling like I had just outfoxed the cops, the whole shebang, cracked the vault, made my get away with the loot under my belly.  And I am the Treasure.  (134)

 

This realization, contrasted with Butch’s blindness, is the opposite of tragedy.  Perhaps this is the biggest reason why the official culture has for so long ignored The Girl.  The culture of exploitation is the culture of tragedy.  Tragedy is used to substitute for recognition of real suffering.  The personal liberation experienced by the Girl is just the kind of liberation that is feared most by such a culture since it leads to the realization that personal liberation is not a liberation unless everyone is free.  And that it is necessary to work for that freedom.

 

What do you get now?  They won’t give you anything for love.  You got to fight for it.  You can't just cry for yourself.  You got to cry for all.  Some face has got to shine with every other face.  We must know that our suffering is together....The same enemy after us...the same mother over us, she said.  (134)