Study Guide

Woman on the Edge of Time Quotes

  • Love

    Anybody would think she had loved her daughter. (2.52)

    Connie's crying here because she sees a girl about her daughter's age. The authorities took Angelina away from her because she hit Angelina once and broke her wrist. Connie's anger here is in part at the folks who took Angelina away. But she's also angry with herself for hitting her daughter, and she to some degree feels she didn't love Angelina… or didn't deserve to love her.

    She should have loved her better, but to love you must love yourself, she knew that now, especially to love a daughter you see as yourself reborn. (3.12)

    Connie doesn't love herself in part because the society she's in doesn't love poor people, or Latinos, or women. She does better at loving herself in Mattapoisett, because the culture there tells her she's lovable.

    They talked passionately, sitting side by side against a wall, sometimes interrupting the flow by half an hour or an hour… Too much animation, too obvious a pleasure in each other's company would bring down punishment. The hospital regarded Sybil as a lesbian. Actually she had no sex life. (4.25)

    The hospital is really into regulating love. They don't want the patients to like each other; they don't want any expression of intimacy, physical or otherwise. That mentally healthy people don't love seems to be the working model.

    "But I think we often settle for sex when we want love. And we often want love when we need something else, like a good job or a chance to go back to school." (4.31)

    Love is often seen as something that can transcend bad times, or transform them—like Cinderella's prince rescuing her from drudgery. Connie here thinks that maybe Cinderella (or is that Connie?) wanted a prince because she couldn't become a research geneticist.

    "Unstable dyads, fierce and greedy, trying to body the original mother-child bonding. It looks tragic and blind!" (6.155)

    This is what the future people think about our nuclear families back here in the present. Marriage with just two partners is greedy and tragic and blind. Love more, love better, sleep with all until the hippie lovelight shines! (We've mentioned that the people of the future are all hippies, right?)

    "But a person wants to couple with everybody."

    "Aw, not everybody. Not all of the time." (7.5-6)

    Jackrabbit is insisting that he only wants to sleep with just about everybody just about all of the time. This is presented as fun and funny… though a couple people also say that having Jackrabbit love them and leave them was a bit upsetting. But because the future is easy about sex and love, Jackrabbit's jumping and hopping from person to person is amusing rather than a tragedy or a disaster (like Connie's marriage to Eddie was).

    Martín's love had given her worth. She had feared the loss of his love every day. She spent her time fearing it, walking the line of decorum like a tightrope, lowering her eyes to all other men, speaking only when spoken to. (12.37)

    Connie loved Martín, but her love makes her adopt a stereotypical feminine role. Given what we know about Connie from the rest of the novel, could she have kept that up for the rest of her life? Would her relationship with Martín have worked if he hadn't died?

    "Dawn is too young to comprehend why you love her. But we love you back." (12.75)

    Connie loves Dawn because Dawn reminds her of her daughter. The love Connie sees in the future often comes out of her memories. Which could mean the future is just in her head, or could mean that you make the love you want in the future out of the love you had in the past.

    Because he was too beautiful and tempted them, they had fixed him. (13.120)

    The doctors "cured" Skip's homosexuality. Connie is saying that men are scared of Skip because they're scared of the possibility of homosexuality in themselves.

    Only one person to love. Just one little corner of loving of my own. For that love I'd have borne it all and I'd never have fought back. I would have obeyed. I would have agreed that I'm sick, that I'm sick to be poor and sick to be sick and sick to be hungry and sick to be lonely and sick to be robbed and used. (19.78)

    Would it have been good for Connie to agree that she's sick? Would love have made her even more oppressed? It's not clear; in Mattapoisett, people don't have to choose between love and self-respect. It seems like Connie shouldn't have to either.

  • Madness

    Either I saw him or I didn't and I'm crazy for real this time, she thought. (1.1)

    This is the first line of the book. It's tricky because it tells you Connie might be crazy, but you don't really know what she's talking about, so you don't see her as mentally ill through that first chapter when she smashes Geraldo in the face. Does it change your reading of that chapter when you know that she may not be in her right mind? Should it?

    "I went mad with fear. In the madhouse I met Bolivar and he was good for me in learning to say the initial 'I want. I want.'" (6.131)

    Jackrabbit ends up in the madhouse because he has trouble deciding what he wants, and he gets afraid as a result. That makes madness seem like an everyday problem; something you and your neighbor and your Uncle Bob might experience, rather than something that only happens to messed up people like Connie.

    "Do you tell everyone you meet that you've been mad twice?" (6.152)

    Connie is envious. One of the worst parts of ending up in the asylum for her was being stigmatized; everyone thinks she's a horrible person because she was committed. It's hard to get better and live a normal life when the world thinks you're awful.

    "Most we've reached are females, and many of those in mental hospitals and prisons. We find people whose minds open for an instant, but at the first real contact, they shrink in terror." (10.45)

    Luciente says that many of the people they contact from the future are in mental hospitals and prisons. The suggestion is that receptive people like Connie are often mistaken for being crazy in the present. It also means that people who are seen as marginal and wrong and broken are actually the good guys.

    Dizzy, she stuck out her hand, and Dolly again gave her a five. Oh, well, she could use it. She stared into Dolly's intense eyes, the pupils too big, too shiny. "What are you on?" (11.25)

    Connie's in the asylum, but Dolly is the one so confused and messed up that she literally can't even remember what she's doing from one minute to the next. The difference is that Connie fought back when Dolly was in danger, and Dolly didn't. Which makes it look like the asylum is meant to control and pacify, rather than to heal.

    As soon as the orderly left she climbed down. (11.171)

    Connie has made herself unconscious in order to escape. Luciente taught her how to do that… which means Luciente must exist, right? This is the moment where it seems Connie is most likely not crazy. (Though of course, we learn everything from Connie's point of view, so maybe she's misleading us?)

    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)

    As the book goes along, Luciente often seems more like a voice than a real person—and here Connie explicitly wonders if Luciente is an alternate self or a kind of imaginary friend. But if Luciente is imaginary, how can she tell Connie which plants are safe to eat?

    "They won something. I don't feel like fucking anybody. Or loving anybody. I don't feel any love at all. I feel like a big block of ice." (14.113)

    Skip's homosexuality is seen as an illness. Curing him involves making him unable to feel lust or love. They've cut out a bit of his brain, which seems like it leaves him more insane, not less. (This is confirmed when he finally succeeds in his suicide attempt.)

    … she could pour some of the poison into the coffee. It was brown and oily. It would work well in coffee. For all the meanness he had laid on her all the years of her life, for Dolly, for Carmel. Her purse lay within reach. She could do it. (18.178)

    Is Connie mentally ill when she contemplates killing Luis? Is it rational to want to kill him? If she did murder him, she could probably escape the house in the confusion, or at least make an attempt. You could see her violence as extreme or crazy, but she's in a pretty desperate situation; maybe it's sane to go a little insane when you're backed against the wall.

    She thought of Luciente, but she could no longer reach over. She could no longer catch. She had annealed her mind and she was not a receptive woman. She had hardened. But she thought of Mattapoisett. (19.109)

    Connie can't reach Luciente at the end of the book. You could see that as meaning she's become sane. But the description makes it sound more like she's insane. Like Skip, she's cut herself off from others, which is a kind of death and a kind of insanity.

  • Morality and Ethics

    She hated Geraldo and it was right for her to hate him. Attacking him was different from turning her anger, her sorrow, her loss of Claud into self-hatred... (1.91)

    This is one of the first statements about morality in the book, and it emphatically argues that hate is virtuous. Of course, Geraldo is awful, and is trying to hurt Connie's niece. Still, it's striking that good is portrayed as hating evil because it's better than hating yourself. This is not what you usually learn in school (at assembly today, we will practice hating. Best hater wins a good conduct sticker!).

    "It's tender, end-of-mothering. Comprend, we sweat out our rituals together. We change them, we're all the time changing them! But they body our sense of good." (6.92)

    The sense of good Luciente is talking about is dropping a 12-year-old in the woods, making her find her own way home, and then having her parents not talk to her for three months. Shmoop is skeptical that this is a good or moral thing. But it would mean parents didn't have to live with adolescents. Maybe that is ideal.

    "How interesting," Magdalena said politely, with her head cocked. "Our notions of evil center around power and greed—taking from other people their food, their liberty, their health, their land, their customs, their pride. We don't find coupling bad unless it involves pain or is not invited." (7.103)

    Connie is shocked when she sees a couple of 7-year-olds having sex (or trying to). Magdalena says that violence and taking from people is bad, but not sex (unless it involves violence or taking from other people). Does Magdalena's argument make sense?

    "We all carry our death at the core—if you don't know that, your life is hollow, no? This is good death." (8.188)

    Accepting death is part of living a moral life, in Mattapoisett. Connie sort of accepts a kind of death at the end of the book; it's not entirely clear whether that makes her more moral or not.

    "The social fabric means a lot to us." (10.171)

    In the future, they spend a lot of time negotiating and involving the community in individual relationships. It's like if you didn't like somebody in your class very much, and then the entire school had a series of assemblies to try to get you two to like each other more. Would that make school a more moral and healthful place, with less bullying? Or would it make you feel like you had no privacy at all?

    "All those people in metal boxes, alone and cut off!" Luciente shook her head. "How could you start to talk? Make friends?"(12.73)

    When you think about cars and morality, it's usually in the context of pumping out greenhouse gasses and fouling the atmosphere. Mattapoisett is very eco-friendly, but Luciente is even more struck by how isolated and isolating cars are. One of the big differences between Mattapoisett and the past is the isolation; the future is very community-oriented. The past drives around in boxes—which Luciente seems to be suggesting makes the past sadder, and perhaps less capable of morality as well.

    "In Connie's time it was thought some people who were good at some things, like a couple of the arts and sciences, should do nothing else."

    "That must have made them a little stupid," Luciente said. "A little simple, you grasp? And self-important!" (13.87)

    In Mattapoisett, everyone has to participate in jobs like raising food, or cleaning, or various other tasks. Luciente argues that specializing makes people stupid and self-important. Economic arrangements affect people's moral selves, and moral actions.

    "But Connie, in your day only huge corporations and the Pentagon had money enough to pay for big science. Don't you think that had an effect on what people worked on? Sweet petunias! And what we do comes down on everybody. We use up a confounded lot of resources. Scarce materials. Energy. We have to account. There's only one pool of air to breathe." (14.60)

    Scientists should be responsible to the rest of society. Also, if you're going to curse, you should always say, "Sweet petunias!" It's a cute phrase… and it's the way of the future.

    It is all right for me to beg and crawl and wheedle because I am at war. They will see how I forgive. That made her feel stronger. (18.101)

    People often excuse all sorts of things—like dropping bombs on children—on the grounds that they're at war. It's not clear whether we're supposed to find Connie's excuse here convincing or not. What war is she fighting? Against whom?

    "Luciente, do you think it's always wrong to kill?" […]

    "How can I face something so abstract?"

    "To kill someone with power over me. Who means to do me in."

    "Power is violence. When did it get destroyed peacefully? We all fight when we're back to the wall—or to tear down the wall. You know we kill people who choose twice to hurt others. We don't think it's right to kill them. Only convenient. Nobody wants to stand guard over another."

    "In my time people are willing to stand guard. It's a living. I guess maybe it's power too." (19.170)

    It's certainly true that the asylum is committing violence against Connie. They're operating on her brain without her consent; they're preventing her from leaving. That's violence. Luciente seems to say that Connie has the moral right to fight back—or at least the moral necessity. Again, it's not clear whether we're supposed to accept that or not. Luciente may be a morally superior voice of wisdom from the future… or she may be a figment of Connie's imagination, providing her with confused justification for some awful actions.

  • Science

    They had injected him with hepatitis and the disease had run its course and he had died. (1.150)

    This is the first mention of scientific experimentation in the book. Claud, Connie's husband, was arrested and experimented on. Science, for Connie, even before the brain implants, isn't about progress and nifty inventions; it's about figuring out horrible ways to kill the people she cares about. (If you think this sort of experimentation seems exaggerated, you should read about the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, which ended only a few years before Woman On the Edge of Time was published.)

    How that Dr. Redding stared at her, not like she'd look at a person, but the way she might look at a tree, a painting, a tiger in the zoo. (4.76)

    The scientists in the asylum don't see Connie as a person. That's why they feel they can do anything to her; she's not really human to them. If they don't treat her like a human, does that mean she doesn't need to treat them as humans? Dr. Redding sets himself up for a lot of grief with that look. (Watch out for the coffee, buddy.)

    "Is this all automated?" she shouted.

    "Fasure," Jackrabbit shouted back. "Who wants to stuff pillows?" (7.16-7.17)

    Science in the future stuffs pillows. It's not phasers or warp speed, but even Captain Kirk needs a pillow, right?

    "…why not begin with her kicking around? After all, irrational violence is what we're about." (10.104)

    Alice is upset because the scientists are filming her and she's bald. The scientists interpret her embarrassment, and her anger at being humiliated, as "irrational violence." The scientists get to decide what's rational and what isn't. That's not because they're smart and know everything; it's because they have power.

    "Sticking a log in somebody's eye to dig out an eyelash! They had not even a theory of memory! Their arrogance… amazes me." She snorted. (11.86)

    Luciente is pointing out that scientists in our day are arrogant, which seems fair. The bit about "They had not even a theory of memory!" is an offhand bit of goofy sci-fi technobabble though. We don't get many of those in this book; they're worth savoring when they pop up.

    "Now that Dr. Morgan had lost his fear of her, there was something ugly in his demonstrations." (13.24)

    Dr. Morgan uses the brain implant to control Alice; the suggestion is that he's getting sadistic pleasure out of it. Science here is a means of forcing people to do what you want, rather than a way to help people do stuff they couldn't before.

    "They like to try out medicine on poor people. Especially brown people and black people. Inmates in prison too." (14.35)

    Mattapoisett uses science to try to make society more equal. Connie here suggests that science in her own time is a way to make society more unequal—to hurt and weaken people who are already marginal and oppressed.

    "In your time, I think people talked about effects and side effects, but that's nonsense." (14.36)

    Luciente is arguing that talking about "side effects" is a way to pretend that there's a main scientific effect and then other accidental effects that don't matter as much. She wants to see science more holistically. That is, you need to consider everything that science does, not just bracket off what you want from what you don't.

    "We weren't together at the front? Fighting?"

    "Not in my life, Connie. Not in this continuum…With that device in your brain, maybe you visioned it." (19.32)

    This is another bit of sci-fi techno-burble. Connie saw a future in which Luciente was at the front; Luciente says that didn't happen, but that it might have been in another continuum, or time path.

    After a fight with another patient on the ward, causing mild concussion, this patient wandered out of the hospital and was lost in the woods for two whole nights and days. (20.25)

    This is from Connie's medical records. Those records present a view of Connie as a scientific object of study; a case history, rather than a person. To the medical establishment, Connie never does anything of her own initiative; she didn't try to escape, she just wandered out. Science sees patients as victims and as things. To science, Connie has no future and no story, only symptoms.

  • Society and Class

    Most people hit kids. But if you were on welfare and on probation and the whole social-pigeonholing establishment had the right to trek regularly through your kitchen looking in the closets and under the bed… you had better not hit your kid once. (1.148)

    Connie is saying that the real crime is not hitting your kids, but hitting your kids while you're poor. Would Mattapoisett let someone hit their kids? What would happen in Mattapoisett if you beat your child?

    Her life was thin in meaningful "we's." (2.14)

    Connie is isolated from her family and from any community, in part by her poverty, in part by her history and the fact that the people she loved kept dying. She's also isolated, though, because the book presents the present as isolating; compared to Mattapoisett, people in Connie's world are cut off from each other. That's part of why Mattapoisett is a utopia; people have community there.

    The anger of the weak never goes away, Professor, it just gets a little moldy. It molds like a beautiful blue cheese in the dark, growing stranger and more interesting. (2.109)

    Connie is talking about the professor at university who slept with her. She's also talking about class resentment, and how the weak are good at hating. Connie is certainly good at hating. Does the hate make her stronger? Or is it just a sign of the class differences that make her weak?

    "Consuela, my given name. Consuelo'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)

    Connie's fractured society makes her a fractured person. And those fractures are all about fault lines of race and class. (All this talk of split personalities also raises the possibility that Connie is Luciente, btw.)

    We want there to be no chance of racism again. But we don't want the melting pot where everybody ends up with thin gruel. We want diversity, for strangeness breeds richness. (5.79)

    One of the things you might worry about with a classless society is that it would be boring; everybody would be the same. But Mattapoisett is too cool for that; they make sure each village has a different base culture, so there are enough differences to keep things interesting. So they have an Ashkenazi Jewish culture in one village and a Wampanoag Indian culture in another village, and a Klingon culture in a third.

    "All those meetings. I ended up with nothing but feeling sore and ripped off."

    "You lose until you win—that's a saying those who changed our world left us. Poor people did get together." (8.156)

    Luciente is saying that the perfect future was created by poor people organizing. Does that mean dropping poison in people's coffee? The book doesn't really explain how you get to the perfect future; it's a hope, but the actual blueprint to get to the hope is kind of fuzzy.

    "Everybody was having a good time, everybody in the world, in the universe, everybody but her, alone and bored. Everybody was loving everybody else, everybody was drinking wine and smoking dope and dancing and sitting on each other's laps and whispering in each other's ears." (9.65)

    Connie has a gift for utopian hippie visions. The perfect society here is the whole world drunk and sexy. (And then Connie goes to the future and everyone has a party and is drunk and sexy. Utopia!)

    "Poor Alice!" Sybil shook her head. "She must be humiliated! Imagine playing up to that fascist because he presses a button." (10. 152)

    The doctors are compared to fascists, which seems like it's meant to be taken fairly literally. That is, the doctors wield arbitrary power over people who are seen as less than human. The brain implants are a kind of perfected authoritarian control; Hitler would have used them if he could.

    "Hello monster," he said softly.

    "Hello, monster," she said back, and smiled for the first time since her operation. "There's too little of you and too much of me." (14.102)

    Skip and Connie are joking bitterly about the fact that they've been turned into monsters. The monster-ing is not just from the operations. They're monsters because the people with power see them as monsters—for being poor, or homosexual, or female, or Hispanic. Social class, and power, creates monsters. (Now if only Connie could turn into the Incredible Hulk and smash her way out, the book might have had a happier ending.)

    "An army of lovers cannot lose." (17.75)

    This is one of the most famous lines in the book; it's a song they sing while they're fighting in the future (or in an alternate future.) It was picked up by some gay rights activists. It expresses the hope/belief/dream that love will triumph over all, and that society can be remade by love. Even if it's not clear, in this book, that it does.

  • Time

    So who was the worst fool, then—herself at fifteen full of plans and fire, or the woman of thirty-seven who had given up making any plans? (2.99)

    Has Connie really given up making plans? Her visions suggest either that she's imagining the future or that she's still receptive to it. Either way, the fifteen year old and the thirty-seven year old aren't so different; past and future are similar in that both are looking to the future.

    Claud made love as if he had all the time in the world. He might not like it for a week, he might disappear, he might feel too low and mean. But when he came to it, he took his sweet time. (6.13)

    The people of Mattapoisett also seem to have more time; even Jackrabbit, who's always in a hurry, has time to enjoy his hurry. The future isn't just removed in time, but it has a different, more fulfilling approach to time—one that was shared by Claud, in Connie's past.

    This rotten place, it gave her nothing to do and too much time to do it in. Here she was brooding on Claud again. She couldn't take it. Remembering him just cut her to bleeding hunks. Dead. (6.15)

    The asylum's time is slow too, but not a good slow. Instead of having all the time to do what you want, there's tons of time and nothing to do. Maybe "utopia" is when you use time, rather than the other way around.

    "Those of your time who fought hard for change, often they had myths that a revolution was inevitable. But nothing is! All things interlock. We are only one possible future. Do you grasp?"(9.132)

    Luciente is talking about the Communists, who believed that the workers would inevitably revolt and overthrow the capitalists and everyone would have bunnies. (Okay, Marx didn't specifically say the bunnies part.) Mattapoisett is kind of sort of a worker's paradise, with all the corporations and the rich defeated and exiled to the moon without bunnies. But Luciente is saying that the capitalist-less, bunny-filled future isn't necessary. It depends on the present—and if all things interlock, maybe the present depends on seeing the future, and realizing it's not inevitable.

    She felt swollen equally with old tears and present wanting, the memory of Claud and the presence of Bee. (9.205)

    So here's that past-and-present-interlocking bit Luciente was getting at. Connie is with Bee while thinking about Claud; her past (way, way back in the past) is part of the future, or of her experience of the future. What she wants comes out of what she wanted (which may apply to all of Mattapoisett, if it's just her dream).

    Martín had been dead almost half the time she had lived. What was the use of crying now? Yet she mourned him freshly, thinking that in the future they might have lived side by side for half a century. (10.275)

    Again, future and past get jumbled and shmooshed, as Connie imagines how she could have had a different past if only she'd somehow lived in the future. Mattapoisett ends up sounding more like a vacation spot you can travel to than a something hundreds of years in the future. (You get that in the title too: Woman on the Edge of Time makes time sound like a cliff, or a space, you can fall into. You could climb down it with the right time-sneakers.)

    "There is no such thing as time travel." (15.124)

    The evil guard from the awful future tells Connie this. It's supposed to show his ignorance and lack of imagination—but on the other hand, he's right! There is no time-travel; you can't go to Mattapoisett with the gardens and talking cats no matter how receptive you are or how long you hold your breath. The evil guard from the awful future is right. We hate it when that happens.

    "I can't know that time—any more than you can ultimately know us. We can only know what we can truly imagine. Finally what we see comes from ourselves." (17.25)

    Luciente is saying that you can't really know the future, because you can't truly imagine it. But she also seems to be saying that to know you have to imagine. Connie imagining the future, then, might be a way to know the future. You need to dream your way to the future you want.

    For Skip, for Alice, for Tina, for Captain Cream and Orville, for Claud, for you who will be born from my best hopes, to you I dedicate my act of war. At least once I fought and won. (19.110)

    Connie is saying that poisoning the doctors in the present will help Mattapoisett be born from her best hopes. But she also sees the act as coming out of, or dedicated to, those she loves who have been brutalized in the past. Present actions come from what's gone before and from what is to come. Whether that's a good thing or not is somewhat less clear.

  • Warfare

    "Fought? And you won't go hunting?"

    Luciente paused, her eyes clouding over. "A contradict. I've gone through a worming on it, yet it stays." (5.48-49)

    Luciente won't hunt animals, but is willing to fight and kill humans if she has to. Even in the utopian future, people's morality isn't entirely consistent. (Though maybe she's worried that if she hunted she'd have trouble explaining it to her talking cat.)

    "Connie! Tell me why it took so long for you lugs to get started. Grasp, it seems sometimes like you would put up with anything, anything at all, and pay for it through the teeth. How come you took so long to get together and start fighting for what was yours?" (9.128)

    Luciente is urging Connie to stop stalling and kick those capitalists in their capitalist butts. So Connie poisons some coffee. Not clear that this was exactly what Luciente was thinking of.

    "But there was a thirty-year war that culminated in a revolution that set up what we have. Or else there wasn't and we don't exist." (10.53)

    Thirty years would be a really long, awful war; millions and probably hundreds of millions of people would die in a war that long. Luciente seems to just shrug it off. Is she callous? Does the novel just not really think through a thirty-year war? Or is the exploitation and grinding cruelty of Connie's present so ugly that overthrowing it is worth any number of dead bodies?

    "The enemy is few but determined. Once they ran this whole world, they had power as no one, even the Roman emperors, and riches drained from everywhere. Now they have the power to exterminate us and we to exterminate them." (13.95)

    The people with more power than the Roman empire—that's the rich who are around now (or were around in 1976.). The super-rich are even richer now than they were in Piercy's time. Bill Gates and the Koch brothers have more money than Roman Emperors did (and also snazzy corporate jets).

    "Jackrabbit was no born fighter. Person would have been happier staying home. But fought well. Jackrabbit was wounded running out to move a sonic shield to protect our emplacement." (16.74)

    Jackrabbit isn't a born fighter. But is Connie? And if Connie is, is that why she thinks up a future in which Jackrabbit has to fight? (Or is it Marge Piercy, the author, who's a born fighter?)

    "We come to ask that a new baby be begun, to replace Jackrabbit, who is dead and buried," Bee said. (16.123)

    Woman on the Edge of Time is not exactly a realist novel, so pointing out plot holes in the future that may or may not exist seems maybe silly. But still—if you were in a war, and you could birth as many babies as you wanted from tubes, wouldn't you be churning out the tube babies to win the war, and then drop your population back down afterwards?

    "Good! That's my first victory. Tina was scheduled for Monday." (16.139)

    Connie is just starting to see her campaign against the doctors as a war… though her victory here seems pretty limited. She makes herself unconscious and causes a slight delay. Is she really in a campaign against evil, or is she just kidding herself?

    "We're all at war. You're a prisoner of war. May you free yourself." (17.19)

    Bee tells Connie she's at war after the doctors have put the implant in her brain to control her. Again, it's not clear how to take this. Bee seems wise in general (not to mention sexy). But if Connie's just imagining him, then his argument here seems suspect. On the other hand, doctors putting implants in Connie's brain does seem really violent and awful; describing it as war doesn't seem out of line.

    Then one of the police had turned and seeing her at the window, raised his gun and shot right at her. (17.57)

    Connie's remembering an incident in which a policeman shot at her just because he felt like it—or, more accurately, because she was poor and Hispanic. The future war has its roots in the violence of Connie's present and past.

    "War, she thought, I'm at war. No more fantasies, no more hopes. War." (17.112)

    Connie sees war as opposed to fantasy. But the war in the book, with the sonic sweeps and the cyborgs, is made-up—and for that matter, what spurs her to war is the hope of the future. Wars not more real than any other thing imagined in the book. Though part of the point of the book is that imaginings can zap you (especially if you're a coffee drinker).

  • Women and Femininity

    "He is my man," Dolly said shrugging. "What can I do?" (1.129)

    Dolly still cares about Geraldo, even though he's awful. You can say she's stupid, and she sort of is, but Mattapoisett shows it's a stupidity caused by the society she's in, not by mental limitations. Dolly's options as a poor woman are limited, both financially and emotionally. If she'd been born in Mattapoisett, she could have been a geneticist.

    "You'll do what women do. You'll pay your debt to your family for your blood. May you love your children as much as I love mine." (2.91)

    This is advice from Connie's mother; the most Connie can hope for, she suggests, is to love her children. And Connie doesn't even have that, since her daughter is taken away from her. She's left loving Dolly, which is a pretty sad second-best.

    Luciente spoke, she moved with the air of brisk unselfconscious authority Connie associated with men. (3.67)

    Connie at first mistakes Luciente for a man, not because Luciente looks like a man, but because she acts like one—acting like a man here meaning that she isn't self-conscious and seems sure of herself. Luciente isn't beaten down enough for Connie to recognize her as a woman.

    "It was part of women's long revolution. When we were breaking all the old hierarchies. Finally there was that one thing we had to give up too, the only power we ever had, in return for no more power for anyone. The original production: the power to give birth." (5.95)

    Luciente explains that women have to give up birth if they're going to be equal. Connie doesn't like that at all; she already lost her daughter, and she's not into the idea that women will lose their innate connection to children.

    "Something puzzles me. It seems like everybody is careful not to say what seems really obvious to me—that Jackrabbit and Bolivar have… well, they're both men. It's homosexual. Like that might bother a woman more."

    "But why?" Parra looked at her as if she were really crazy. "All coupling, all befriending goes on between biological males, biological females, or both. That's not a useful set of categories. We need to divvy up people by what they're good at and bad at, strengths and weaknesses, gifts and failings." (10.269-270)

    The future has gender equality, but it also doesn't discriminate on the basis of sexuality. Parra in fact suggests that equality in terms of sexuality and gender have to go together. Once you stop worrying about whether someone's a man or a woman, why would you care which people want to sleep with each other?

    "Birth! Birth! Birth!" Luciente seemed to sing in her ear. "That's all you can dream about! Our dignity comes from work. Everyone raises the kids, haven't you noticed? Romance, sex, birth, children—that's what you fasten on. Yet that isn't women's business anymore. It's everybody's." (12.123)

    In Luciente's view, women don't so much lose romance, sex, birth, and children, as everyone else gains them. Guys can be moms too, which means that moms, and children, are more respected and valued by everyone.

    … her body seemed a cartoon of femininity, with a tiny waist, enormous sharp breasts that stuck out like the brassieres Connie herself had worn in the fifties—but the woman was not wearing a brassier. Her stomach was flat but her hips and buttocks were oversized and audaciously curved. She looked as if she could hardly walk for the extravagance of her breasts and buttocks, her thighs that collided as she shuffled a few steps. (15.4)

    This is the evil, bad, no-good future. In the good future, men and women are just about the same; in the bad one, gender differences are exaggerated to cartoonishness. Instead of women gaining confidence, they are turned into sex dolls who can barely walk. Does the novel see femininity as bad? Or is only the extreme of femininity bad?

    "Men and women haven't changed so much," she said… She was surprised by how cheerless that prospect seemed. (15.64)

    The novel presents gender roles in the present as fairly awful. In Mattapoisett, on the other hand, things are changed around radically. The novel thinks that for a better future, we need better genders.

    "Dolly, it's you who needs Nita. Sure, your mamá takes good care. But you need her with you. Without her, you don't love yourself. You use yourself like a rag to wipe up the streets. You turn your body to money, and the money to the buzzing of death in your head." (16.6)

    Connie could be talking about herself here. She needs her own daughter; without her, she self-destructed (and is arguably still self-destructing throughout the novel). Note that Mattapoisett refuses to extend human lifespans because people want kids. The past needs the future as much as (more than?) the other way around.

    All Luis' wives came to sound the same, nodding at him, but each one was fancier and had a higher polish. Each one was lighter. Each one spent more money. Carmel had been for hard times. Shirley was for getting set up in business. Adele was for making money in bushels and spending it. (18.117)

    Luis's wives are status symbols and ways to advance his career. He doesn't treat them much differently than Geraldo treats Dolly.