Gender Issues And Sexuality In Marge Piercy's "Sex Wars"

773 words - 3 pages

Sex Wars; a title provocative enough to garner not only a second look when encountered on an overcrowded bookshelf, but undoubtedly a perfunctory lift from the shelf and a superficial perusal. If you do delve deeper into the novel by Marge Piercy you come to see that Sex alludes to gender and the relationship between men and women; not just the act. War denotes power, agency; a struggle to gain it, fought in our own cities not on some far off shores. It isn't peculiar that Marge Piercy would devote over four hundred pages to such a struggle. A prolific author of poetry, fiction and non; Piercy, a staunch feminist, always "examines women's roles, especially those traditionally relegated to men." in her work. (Unknown) Sex Wars does that as well as illuminates the unique experience of goal-oriented women in a patriarchal society and the hardships that misogyny imposes on women and society as a whole. All of that is done in a historical context and the fact that the novel is so rich in detail, historical and otherwise, and so intricately woven together, if not a historian, you are left wondering what was real and what was fiction.
The novel traces the historical lives of Victoria Woodhull, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Anthony Comstock as well as that of the fictional Freydeh Levin, mainly during the years of 1868 to 1874. The action is set in and around New York City. Also prime characters in this epic are the first women's movement and the post civil war re-constructionist gilded age, as they and their social ramifications intertwine with and impact the lives of the human characters.
Stylistically, the book is arranged in rotating chapters. Every fourth chapter is devoted to each individual character and their continuation along their journey toward self-defined success. While this format utilized the element of suspense effectively, it also left the overall story somewhat disjointed for too long. It was not until the twenty-seventh of forty-five chapters when the lives of the characters began to intertwine and the story as a whole began to take shape. By that time, the suspense had turned to longing and had begun to feel burdensome.
The setting was analogical genius. Just as American society was reconstructing it's values and identity after the civil war and with the rise of the industrial revolution, so was each character. Victoria Woodhull, born...

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