Study Guide

Woman on the Edge of Time Time

By Marge Piercy


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.