Study Guide

The Female Man Plot Analysis

By Joanna Russ

Plot Analysis

Exposition (Initial Situation)

Girl Meets World, Meets World, Meets World

The Female Man doesn't fit neatly into a classic plot analysis, because the novel actively resists a clear-cut narrative. On top of that, the Exposition and the Rising Action work hand-in-hand throughout the novel. Think of it this way: the Initial Situation when the novel begins is that Janet, Jeannine, and Joanna are popping in and out of one another's worlds. Although we learn a lot more about each of these characters over the course of the next nine chapters, the situation that we start out with never really changes—that is, not until the end of Part 7, when they're whisked into Womanland by Jael. 

Rising Action (Conflict, Complication)

Girl Keeps Meeting World, Meeting World, Meeting World

If the Rising Action and the Exposition are working hand-in-hand throughout The Female Man, what does that tell us about the novel's most significant conflicts and complications? For one thing, they happen differently for each of the novel's protagonists, and there's no single moment or single situation that drives the plot forward—that is, again, apart from our Initial Situation of three women being shuttled in and out of one another's worlds. 

Climax (Crisis, Turning Point)

Into the Breach

The clearest Turning Point in The Female Man comes at the very end of Part 7, when Janet, Jeannine, and Joanna are whisked into Womanland by Jael. The news that Jael is the one who has been orchestrating all of this probability travelling comes as a big surprise to the other J's, and it introduces some crucial questions. For instance: why has Jael brought them together? What's her master plan? Just what in the Sam Hill is going on?

Falling Action

Home Sweet Home

It's hard to sustain an atmosphere of crisis and tension for very long, and the Falling Action in The Female Man begins as soon as Jael assassinates the Manland Boss. By the time she gets
the other three J's to her home in Vermont, we're back to business as usual. We get to hear about Jael's childhood and see her hanging out at home, just as we've been able to do with each of the other protagonists, too.

Resolution (Denouement)

So Long, Farewell to The Female Man

The novel's denouement begins as Janet, Jeannine, Joanna, and Jael get together for Thanksgiving dinner at Schrafft's. When their meal is over and they part ways, the novel's omniscient narrator/Joanna bids them adieu as she sends The Female Man—the book—out into the world.