ENG 350 – Week 2 – Remainder of California

In my previous post regarding Edan Lepucki’s California I mentioned the symbolic “newness” of the turkey baster and the meaning Frida attaches to her other artifacts.  There are several times where objects—possessions—are triggers for memories or behaviors for Frida and Cal. These same objects, when handled by others, affect the characters. The Bee that Frida finds in Micah’s house meant so much to them as children and brings back pleasant memories for her, but to Micah it is just a tool. Micah understands what artifacts mean to Frida, though, and has August bring back her collection from the Miller Estate. But again, to Micah, they are just a tool to control Frida’s reactions. It’s entirely possible he left the Bee out for her to see. Micah uses Cal in the same way, but targets his ego rather than objects. He know Cal will be chuffed to part of the inner circle; to be let into a room that not even other members of the inner circle get to be in. He gives Cal/Gray an assignment on the inside to keep him in line; to make him feel special. He gives Frida/Julie all the objects of a “normal” life she could ask for.

I don’t particularly like that Lepucki echoed the stereotypes of men and women in the Land, especially after deriding such separations in earlier chapters. Frida willfully enters into “women’s work”; baking, cooking, gossiping. Cal continues with manual labor, security, and intellectualism. What does Lepucki mean to say about the end of the world, or the nature of humanity, by having her starring roles be held by such stereotypes? Even with Sandy, a pioneer through and through, she cared for the kids and did laundry and even pressured Frida to have a child. Bo did the hunting. The labor. “It’s about upper body strength” was used more than once in the novel to explain why Men do certain jobs.

While neither Frida nor Cal’s skills are presented as lesser than the other, the Land still has a clear distinction of how women work/behave/think and how men work/behave/think. Cal collected information from discussions. Frida, from gossip. Cal proved his worth by working. Frida, from bribery (with baked goods). While it could be said that these character choices are just these characters and how they would behave, that doesn’t explain the remainder of the population going along with the same ideals. The Men were in charge. The Men did security outside, the Women inside. The Women used sex to persuade Men. There were jobs that were co-ed, such as the construction, but the one woman in it was considered a shrew for wanting things measured. The men in cooking were considered inept.

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