Lusty Women Strip Plums-wk 8

“Indissoluble Matrimony” by Rebecca West, contained within the first edition of Blast June 1914, presents a woman with qualities both fiercely feminine and fiercely fierce. Her husband, on the other hand, presents with qualities some might call feminine. In this representation, West subverts traditional marital roles and plays out an image of the modern woman. One who might, given the opportunity, do such things as speak at a socialist gathering. Mrs. Silverton is presented as a sexual creature, with poor table-setting skills, who is smart with money and a strong swimmer. In every category, she is described with hyperbolic-level adjectives: a woman who mourns “savage[ly]”, who eats her bread with “crushing honey”, and is “over-sexed” (101; 99; 102 (Ironically—or not ironically—savagery is also listed in Blast I’s Manifesto: “The artist of the modern movement is a savage” [33]).

Mr. Silverton, on the other hand, is a disappointed eater (though does not appear intent on helping with meal prep), jealous, and weak. In his jealousy, he describes himself as feeling “torture[d]” by Evadne and feeling as though he could break down in “hysterical sobs” (103). This sort of hysteria is often attributed to overreactive women, not men. The tables feel intentionally turned here, with the woman in the relationship having the emotional control. Silverton also does not have control over his wife’s body: “Bodies like his do not kill bodies like hers” which he describes as being “lusty” (117). Brains like his also don’t kill brains like hers, however, as in his attempt to gas poison the two of them, he realizes that Evadne has turned off the main line to prevent leaks, a “thrifty habit” of hers (117). The scene ends with a recognition that he will always be hers, whether he likes it or not, and describes how she “caressed him with warm arms” as the final line of the piece (117). This protective act also communicates a sort of masculine energy, as she demonstrates a sort of possession. Evadne is sharper witted, stronger built, and more emotionally stable than her husband. In this piece, West presents an image of the vivacious modern woman and what men will be reduced down to (one who might “sneeze[] exhaustingly…from physical distress” after a fight and swim) if they do not rise to the occasion and recognize, support, the woman they have, not the table maid they think they want. This piece, published just one month before the start of World War I, feels before its time. Though it is well within the date range for the suffragette movement, it precedes the social advancement women would experience during the first world war.