Cribb Comment Pretext (2015): This passage melds so much together so succinctly and so subtly, that I fear most of its meaning and beauty are sure to be lost on the average reader.
A woman who did not have the strength or will to seek out the rarity of love and devout awareness in the male species, creates the constructs of her self-fulfilling prophecy, and thus squanders her life, at least in part. She must not allow her daughter to prove her wrong…to obliterate the constructs she forged in her own mind as a consciously repressed though perceived necessity of admonishing hope and faith in love and union in order to muster the strength and fortitude to continue to live…that is to physically survive.
Luke is a game changer, an outlier of the male species. His existence delights mom in one way and absolutely terrifies her in another. She must prove her daughter wrong and only a transient contradiction to how she herself chose to live her life or accept the existence of true love and thus admit that only she herself was too weak and/or too damaged not to cut such a belief in that force out of her own soul and previous existence.
She liked to come over to my house and have a drink while Luke and I were fixing dinner and tell us what was wrong with her life, which always turned into what was wrong with ours. Her hair was gray by that time, of course. She wouldn’t dye it. Why pretend, she’d say. Anyway what do I need it for, I don’t want a man around, what use are they except for ten seconds’ worth of half babies. A man is just a woman’s strategy for making other women. Not that your father wasn’t a nice guy and all, but he wasn’t up to fatherhood. Not that I expected it of him. Just do the job, then you can bugger off, I said, I make a decent salary, I can afford daycare. So he went to the coast and sent Christmas cards. He had beautiful blue eyes though. But there’s something missing in them, even the nice ones. It’s like they’re permanently absent-minded, like they can’t remember who they are. They look at the sky too much. They lose touch with their feet. They aren’t a patch on a woman except they’re better at fixing cars and playing football, just what we need for improvement of the human race, right?
That was the way she talked, even in front of Luke. He didn’t mind, he teased her by pretending to be macho, he’d tell her women were incapable of abstract thought and she’d have another drink and grin at him.
Chauvinist pig, she’d say.
Isn’t she quaint, Luke would say to me, and my mother would look sly, furtive almost.
I’m entitled, she’d say. I’m old enough, I’ve paid my dues, it’s time for me to be quaint. You’re still wet behind the ears, Piglet, I should have said.
As for you, she’d say to me, you’re just a backlash. Flash in the pan. History will absolve me.
But she wouldn’t say things like that until after the third drink.
The Handmaid’s Tale
Margaret Atwood 1986