Study Guide

Woman on the Edge of Time Warfare

By Marge Piercy


"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).