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She's Come Undone: Female Voice
One of the most interesting aspects of She's Come Undone is the fact that it is written by a man but is told from a female's point of view. Because of his gender, it is impossible that Lamb could have experienced many of the hardships that Dolores must deal with in his novel. However, Lamb writes with a certain understanding of Dolores and her pain. In She's Come Undone, Lamb addresses issues often avoided by male authors, including female friendships and abortion. His convincing female voice has been critically acclaimed.
Lamb writes about female friendships as if he has experienced them first-hand. His knowledge of the extreme trust that exists in these relationships is exemplified through the friendship between Dolores and Roberta. Dolores tells Roberta of her rape even before she tells her own mother (Lamb 112). It is only through Roberta's companionship that Dolores experiences true happiness. When Roberta comes to live with her, Dolores finally feels secure with herself and her surroundings (419). Roberta and Dolores each provide much needed encouragement for the other (422-423). Dolores takes care of Roberta during failing health, and Roberta provides Dolores with encouragement to continue her education and move on with her life.
On the other hand, Lamb addresses the negative aspects of female friendships. This is best exemplified in the relationship between Dolores and Kippy, her college roommate. Dolores feels the need to impress Kippy. She writes a letter that presents a false but seemingly more attractive persona (146). She is too insecure to comfortably present her real self. Dolores is rejected by the other girls at college because of her physical appearance. The first person to befriend Dolores is the dorm janitor, Dottie. When Dolores realizes that the other girls in her dorm do not approve of Dottie, Dolores abruptly ends their friendship (201). Dolores and Roberta's friendship also has its negative points. After a petty argument, Roberta falls and is hospitalized. Dolores feels that she is solely responsible. Lamb realistically describes the guilt that can accompany some female relationships.
Another area in which Lamb exhibits a certain expertise on womanhood is abortion. Many argue that women react differently to such an event than men do. Dante says that he is in mourning, but he can still go about his day everyday activities. His life does not alter in the slightest (340).
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One example of Lamb's expertise with the female voice can be found when Dolores is raped. He writes,
"I stopped fighting, cut off by the pain of it. The sound of the barking dogs fell away so that all I could hear was his cursing and grunting, over and over, in rhythm with each thrust, each rupture. He's splitting me open, I thought. He'll break me and then I'll die" (110).
Lamb's choice of the female voice has been praised by critics. He is so convincing that one critic referred to him as one of an elite group of "women authors who are reshaping the literature of the 80s and 90s" (Jerome 95). Lamb attributes his sensitivity to Dolores to the strong female influences in his own life. He was aided in the writing of She's Come Undone by his wife, his sisters, and women students and friends. Growing up, his primary playmates were sisters and female cousins (Jerome 96).
In most cases, books dealing with the subjects that are touched upon in She's Come Undone are written by women. However, in this case, the author is Wally Lamb, a six foot, 175 pound, 41-year-old father of two (Jerome 95). His insight into traditionally female topics, including friendships and abortion, make She's Come Undone both unusual and memorable.