Most 300+ word books have at least a couple of major characters; not just Scarlett, but Rhett; not just Mrs. Ramsey, but Mr. Ramsey; not just the old man, but the sea. Okay, that last one was stretching it a bit… but it also weighs in at a featherweight 128 pages.
In Woman on the Edge of Time you start with Connie, you end with Connie, and in the middle it's mostly Connie. Other folks pass on through, but they're all seen through Connie, and most just pop up in her field of view for a moment before going back into the minor characterdom from which they sprang. Even Luciente is at the margins of Connie's story—and may even be a figment of her imagination.
Luckily, Connie doesn't really need a cast of supporting characters, because she's a cast of supporting characters herself. As she explains:
Consuela, my given name. Consuela's a Mexican woman, a servant of servants, silent as clay. The woman who suffers. Who bears and endures. Then I'm Connie, who managed to get two years of college—till Consuela got pregnant. Connie got decent jobs from time to time and fought welfare for a little extra money for Angie. She got me on a bus when I had to leave Chicago. But it was her who married Eddie, she thought it was smart. Then I'm Conchita, the low-down drunken mean part of me who gets by in jail, in the bughouse, who loves no good men, who hurt my daughter… (6.127)
So where do all these Connies come from? They come, in part, from time—that thing Connie is on the "edge" of, according to the title. The book drifts back and forth, not just between future and present, but also between Connie's past and present.
In the book, Connie isn't just an angry thirty-seven-year-old committed to the asylum. She's also an ambitious fifteen-year-old "full of plans and fire" (2.99), and a hard-working college girl, and Martin's sensual young lover, and the woman whom Eddie beat, and the happy family woman with Claud, and the depressed, despairing woman who hit her daughter—and the receptive visionary who sees and embraces a new, exciting future, pod-babies and all. The novel argues that time can make human beings different, so it makes sense that its main character is different people at different times in her life.
The multiple Connies don't just come from multiple times, though. As Connie says, all those different selves are inside her at once, potential people who can come out in any situation. And there's a suggestion that Connie has other people in there as well.
A voice in her ears, good-natured, chiding: Luciente as a fraction of her mind, as a voice of an alternate self, talking to her in the night. Perhaps she was mad. (12. 126)
Is Luciente a visitor from the future? Or is she another self, a dream or potential, a vision of what Connie could be if she were not beaten down by a society that hates women, and Hispanics, and poor people?
Perhaps Connie could be confident and happy, like Luciente; perhaps she could have love (in the future she sleeps with Bee, who is also Luciente's lover). Or maybe she could be a visionary; even if all the future stories are in Connie's head, those are still some pretty intricate stories. She's imagining a future without oppression or hatred. She could be Marge Piercy, maybe, if she had the chance.
There's one other version of Connie we get in the story. The last chapter is a reprinting of Connie's medical records. They show a very different Connie from the one we know. This Connie isn't conflicted and brave and sad and capable of love. She's just a mess; stupid and confused and violent, barely in control of her own actions. When she gets out of the building, the report treats it as a confused accident, rather than as a deliberate escape attempt.
So which Connie is the right Connie? Is she Consuela? Luciente? An author? A madwoman? To some extent she's all of these—but the book also seems to make the argument that who she is depends on what she's allowed to be.
People in Woman on the Edge of Time are part of what time they're in, and what place. You are when and where you are. Connie would be someone else if she were born out of a tube and had three mothers. Everyone is different potential people: you, too, could be a geneticist, or hit your daughter ("Most people hit kids," Connie thinks (1.148)), or live in a perfect future, or poison the coffee.
Connie's so many different people because the book imagines so many different worlds in which she could live.