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Feminism in Braided Lives
Marge Piercy is well known for her feminist views and attitudes throughout her novels. Braided Lives is no exception. The novel follows Piercy's pattern of feminist writing. The characters in the novel are victims of society's crimes towards women. The protagonist, Jill, deals with many issues including rape and abortion. Due to her own experiences with these issues, it becomes her passion to help others in the same situation. Jill constantly strives to be in control of her own life; this struggle is another facet of the feminist movement. The goal of the novel is to "make its readers pay more attention to the current attack on legal abortion, and make them more eager to defend the imperiled gains of the women's movement" (Pollitt 378).
Jill and her female companions encounter many difficult situations involving rape. At age 14, Jill is attacked by her boyfriend Freddie. This occurs at a time when Jill is first discovering her own sexuality and who she is. This experience has an effect on Jill into adulthood. In the novel, she speaks of this experience four years later, when she is preparing to leave for college. Jill recalls this event in vivid detail.
I see his face hard and angry and I remember the terror that gripped me on the kitchen floor when I realized he wasn't going to listen to my firm loud nos that time. Terror twitched me violently... (30).
Jill's cousin and roommate, Donna, is violently raped by a townie. Donna comes to Jill after the rape has taken place. She has been beaten both physically and emotionally. Piercy describes the rape and the aftermath of the rape in great detail. dedicating several pages to describing the horrific acts. Jill won't leave Donna's side and nurses her back to health. Jill takes it upon herself to defend and protect Donna against the man who raped her. This is just one of many times in which Jill defends and protects her female friends against society throughout Braided Lives.
Fighting for a woman's right for an abortion becomes Jill's passion in life. This is a result of her own experiences and those of her friends. When Jill is a freshman in college she becomes pregnant by her boyfriend. Neither is ready for the responsibility of marriage or a child.
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Even in adulthood, Jill is still affected by the emotional and physical trauma of this experience. Jill's personal experiences contribute to her willingness to help and support female friends who end up in the same situation. She put money aside for anyone who needed assistance in getting an abortion, and she also collects names and numbers of doctors who performed them. Jill says, "I don't exactly know why I always write down the information, but I have started keeping names, approximate fees, and instructions in the back of my Spanish notebook. There has to be someone who knows, I figure, and I am willing to be that woman" (282). Jill assists her friend Donna financially and is present during the actual procedure. This is one of the several instances in which Jill demonstrates her total belief in a cause through her actions.
Throughout the novel, Jill struggles to be in control of her own life, and she vows not to abandon her ambitions because someone else tells her to. Jill is not a privileged, fragile innocent. She does not allow discouraging professors, patronizing boyfriends, or pushy parents to force her into giving up her dreams and becoming an obedient housewife (Pollitt 378). Jill takes her life into her own hands and does what ever she can in order to keep her life free from the control of others.
Marge Piercy's feminist attitudes and views are apparent in Braided Lives. Piercy believes that women should be in control of their own bodies and lives. Through the character's encounters with rape and abortion these views are shown. She creates characters who want and are in control of their lives.