black naked women with necks wound round and round with wire like the necks of light bulbs. Their breasts were horrifying. (28-31)
Elizabeth is overwhelmed by the experience of seeing these
women in the magazine. She tries to understand them by comparing their
neck coils to light bulbs – to something she's familiar with. But this
doesn't work out so well. She's still horrified by their breasts – by
the markers of feminine maturity that she sees in these women.
Without thinking at all I was my foolish aunt. (48-49)
After she hears her aunt cry out, Elizabeth finds a kind of connection
with this other woman. She imagines that she's experiencing the same
pain as her aunt is. It's a kind of collective – or group – traumatic
What similarities— boots, hands, the family voice I felt in my throat, or even the National Geographic and those awful hanging breasts— held us all together or made us all just one? (77-83)
Elizabeth asks: what connections hold humanity together? What
tears us apart? Interestingly, in these lines, Elizabeth's vision of
humanity is pretty female. We've got her aunt, the women in the
magazine, herself. Maybe she's asking more specifically: what binds the women of the world together?