The Girl by LeSueur -On page 100, the Girl is thinking (in italics), “I don’t w

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The Girl by LeSueur
-On page 100, the Girl is thinking (in italics), “I don’t want success like Butch. I want to be… I love to be…” and her thoughts trail off. At the bottom of the page (again in italics) she agrees to have the abortion to stop Butch from crying. But a few paragraphs later, she walks away, keeping her child. She still loves Butch, right? But she is changing.
Think about the Girl as an evolving person in this story. How is she different after walking away from the abortionist? What does Le Sueur seem to be saying about her in that change? What do you think she means when the Girl thinks “I want to be… I love to be…”?
~ Consider these ideas as we wrap up the novel:
In the Afterword, Le Sueur writes that the novel is actually an amalgam of women’s real stories told to her or written down. Can we in our present day imagine the events in the story as real? What has changed? What has stayed the same? Consider the ideas in the Narrative, Ideology, Power handout and think about what Le Sueur intended by merging these stories into one narrative. What does that tell us about meaning?
Amy Gentry’s critical essay, “Hungry Realism” discusses Le Sueur’s unique place in literature. Too “lyrical” for the “socialist modernism” of the communist party in her day, but much too radical to be published as a mainstream literary figure, Le Sueur was both marginalized and blacklisted for her political writing. It says something about her that she compromised with neither side. Even more disconcerting, in a way, Gentry’s essay points out that after The Girl was finally published in 1978, the book was attacked by a few feminists as being too heterosexual!
Gentry’s essay points out some of the key themes of the novel: The way hunger drives virtually every aspect of the narrative; the way the “male” culture pits men against each other, in sexual conquest, power struggles, and the tough ideology of manhood; and the way “female” culture is contrasted as communal, nurturing, and empowering.
I have posted a link (below) to a video of Meridel Le Sueur. I have set the video to start at a point where she responds to an interview question, but when you have watched it from there, rewind and watch the whole short segment. You can hear her expressing how as a young girl she rebelled against the kind of linear narrative she felt was from the “male world,” exactly what Gentry is getting at.
**What is the significance of The Girl being nameless throughout? Does she represent women, or a sense of what women might imagine different from men? If so, what do you think that imagination might be?
What do you make of the events in the last two chapters? Indeed, how does The Girl change over the course of the novel and what does that mean? What does she name her daughter? And why is the Girl not named, but her daughter is named as she is?
Think about the novel in terms of literary criticism: Gentry’s essay on The Girl situates the novel historically and politically both in the 1930s, when it was written, and in the 1970s, when it was published. Does her research and thinking about the book help you understand it? Do you agree with her analysis (for example, is she right that a theme of hunger pervades the story)? Would you read the ending as a manifesto for political change? What do you think Le Sueur hoped to inspire out of her work? For you, did she succeed, fail, sort-of succeed? Does this novel speak to our modern world even though it was written (and centered in) the past?

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