Study Guide

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Party Women and Femininity

By M.T. Anderson

Women and Femininity

Octavian Nothing forces us to see how masculine ideas about women and femininity can be super-restrictive and limiting. How does the book do that? By making one woman the only female character in the book worth mentioning—Cassiopeia—a woman whose beauty, wit, and slave-status make her more distant than familiar. In fact, the novel treats women in general as these abstract ideas rather than full, flesh and blood, complex women. This absence speaks volumes about women's positions in society at this time.

Questions About Women and Femininity

  1. Is the book sexist for including only one major female character?
  2. How does slavery impact a woman's femininity?
  3. How does Cassiopeia express power among the men?
  4. How does motherhood impact Cassiopeia's femininity?

Chew on This

The book is sexist for including only one major female character in the novel.

Even though Cassiopeia is the only major female character in the novel, her complexity and strength more than make up for the lack of women in the novel.

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