Woman on the Edge of Time ( 1976)
Marge Piercy


A. On the "Edge" -- society's lower edge: class/race, edge of oppression/violence; edge of  social/psychic normality ; * end of chapter 1
I. The positions of the underclass: 
Connie's racial and class background: 
  • Chicano: from a village near Namiquipas, Los Calcinados to El Paso in Texas, to Chicago, and then to NY; 45
  • on social welfare; no money for presents 48; 
  • the social-pigeonholing institution: 

  •  -- Connie's three husbands:  Martin murdered by the police in the streets; Claud killed in the jail Claud pp. 26-27 ; Eddie a womanizer and wife-abuser
    -- Connie's bosses: Prof. Everett Silvester p. 50; Mrs. Polcari 35; 
    -- Connie being pigeonholed: "human-to-cockroach look" 26; experts condemning Connie 60; at Ward L6: 91; 

    Connie vs. Mrs. Polcari -- p. 34

  • her memories of Claud pp. 108; p. 242;
  • her only experience of pride 242; her being on social welfare 253-54
  • her memories of Marin pp. 214; 242-43; of eating dog food with Angie p.

    Dolly a white pimp, pretending to be Italian or Spanish 210;
II. Gender and familial relations in the past and present "families" 
  • "His" violence: Connie's husbands: Martin; Eddie 43-44; Geraldo pp. 12; G and the other men 14-15; 
  • Professor Silvester p. 50 --> the anger of the weak
  • Luis: many wives 48; Luis wants to be like Anglo 363; 
  • Claud 26-27; 109; 112-13; 
  • submission to childbirth: Connie's mother: p. 45; Teresa 47-48<-> Connie p. 46; 
  • mother-daughter: 
    • Connie nevered been "mothered enough";  p. 47
    • Angelina: p. 61 - 
    • Dolly: 
    • a vicious circle for women in the lower classes p. 280
  • women's roles in biological reproduction --Connie--her mother dies the year she gets her first abortion;
    • hysterectomy -- her mother and Connie ("they had taken out her womb at Metropolitan when she had come in bleeding after that abortion and the beating from Eddie. Unnecessarily they had done a complete hysterectomy because the residents wanted practice" (38).
    • experiment: Inez (cannot tell the difference between a doctor and a scientist) 274;
  • Like my sister Inez, she lives in New Mexico. . . she has seven kids. After the sixth, she went to the clinic for the pill... See, she thought she went to a doctor. But he had his scientist cap on and he was experimenting. She thought it was good she got the pill free. But they gave her a sugar pill instead. So, she got heavy again with the seventh child. It was born with something wrong ... Now they have all that worry and money troubles. They're supposed to give him pills and send him to a special school, but it costs. All because Inez thought she had a doctor, but she got a scientist. ( 268-269)

  • What should or can the social workers do? (e.g. Salaam Bombay)
III. Connie's personality: 
  • rebellious; run away 14; does not want to be like her mother with so many children; 
  • lonely, accompanied by her TV.
  • suffered from Claud's death; 
  • her will to survive: 24; 
  • Connie's sense of the city and space: 
    • the city: "bellied out to her"; people meeting and coupling 49; 
IV. Social system of surveillance: 

A. Education p. 107 - 108 // regulation like a mental institution

B.  police and social workers:  pigeon-holing--restricting(p. 17) , condemning and imprisoning

  • caseworker: Mrs. Polcari p. 40; social worker Ms Fergusson: 25-26 ("human-to-cockcroach look")
B. The medical field and the mental hospital: (psychotropic medications, electric shock therapy, and brain surgery)
  • experiment on humans: Claud's experience in the jail 27; Skip's experience of having electrode attached to his penis (to test his sexual responses) p. 167
  • lack of privacy or freedom 1) *the hospital is like school, where the authorities dominate (e.g. language training; lack of freedom in action);

    2) having to stand in line for medicine, to get permission to make a phone call,
    3) no privacy pp. 165 - 66 (cross-examined by the nurse)

  • Connie's experience: 
    • the first and the second time 59-60; --feel guilty and self-hatred.
    • control with psychrotopic medicine: Thorazine, "hypo"
    • control through communication (examination): "they trapped you into saying something and then they'd bring out their interpretations that made your life over... into a pattern of disease" (18-19).
    • control with judgment: doctor not listening, only judging with their pre-concepts 19-21; any sign interpreted as that of sickness. 
    • control with spatial division and regulating action: pp. 17; 25 (sit and sit and sit); Ward L-6 (violent ward) 80; seclusion ward; "the real hospital" 88; a former schoolteacher's response 91 (re-classification); Ward G-2: 94-95
    • control by promotion or punishment 83
    • dehumanizing: "your sign is cuckoo" 29; tin mirror 89, like the other mirrors in society
    • be obedient.  194 
  • the consequences of electrode on pp. 204, 201, Alice 260; on Skip 254; 263-64, 270; Connie --feeling raped 179; Tina 341; Sybil 342
  • Their ways of persuading Connie 269
  • Inez's experience of "scientist" 274


Woman on the Edge of Time.  NY: Fawcett Crest 1976.  22nd printing 1991.