The Innocence of Revision…

“Clara had done a good job of picking the innocent ones, but I always saw my body’s memories in the character of Martha, whether she was touching an apple or riding the winged cow through the sky. I wondered if the real Martha felt it, too, or if she just saw something cheap and silly for children” (Stinson, 126).

What does it mean to be innocent? I think of innocence as harmless, neither bearing nor receiving ill-intent.

In an English class, almost everything has a deeper meaning, but there is never a right or wrong interpretation. I think this quote represents so much of what we do in an academic setting. The writing takes on a life of its own and as if the author has a specific thought in their mind that isn’t always known to the reader, and that is okay. Clara chooses the innocent pieces that are appropriate for children to read. Even though to most people everything looks innocent, to Amanda those small touches mean something. We don’t know how Martha is taking it but for Amanda, those feelings are so palpable, although undetected by Clara and other readers. There is something beautiful about a piece of literature or art that can start and mean one thing but to the audience, it can be completely different like Amanda’s love stories turned into adventure stories for children.

Minority groups have been written out of history or they usually aren’t in the forefront in many cases. It’s interesting because we talked about Stinson writing a book that focuses on diverse women. She is giving them the ability to be independent and multilayered characters that are the center of attention. Stinson is using revision to open our eyes to different groups through a different lens.

While still being true to the time period of the story, it seems as if Clara and the editor are trying to ignore Amanda’s love for Martha because that isn’t deemed appropriate. Women shouldn’t be writing or reading about anything sexual or intimate. Amanda’s love doesn’t seem innocent in their time period hence the way John reacted but Clara and the editor decided to brush over that fact. It’s true to our history as a country, that characters who represent a minority are written out or changed. This still rings true today. People are still fighting for characters to not be white, heterosexual, etc. when transformed from book to screen for example. Editors have been known to make something more “digestible” to the public; they will cut parts of the character out that should be seen and are important. This is exactly what Amanda’s editor/publisher and Clara are doing, and it isn’t innocent.

The art of meaning can be changed intentionally or unintentionally. The layers of revision are interesting when it comes to Martha Moody because Stinson is revisioning a time period and giving us a new lens while still making it believable by staying true to the time period and having Amanda’s work edited to be socially acceptable. We, as the readers are also creating a new understanding of the story told, trying to make sense of Stinson’s message.

2 thoughts on “The Innocence of Revision…”

  1. The duality of innocence in this conversation is so important. The backing for these cuts, as you stated, both in the real world and in the world of Martha Moody is usually innocence, or sanctity, or some other convention of acceptability. They cut scenes in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes because the dress Marylin Monroe wore wouldn’t pass the censorship of the 1950s. A five second scene that would have confirmed the comic-accurate bisexuality of a Marvel character was cut because it would “distract the audience.” These changes deliberately establish what is deemed worthy of the public eye, and what is accepted in that sphere. Anything that falls outside of these rules is cut out and buried.

  2. This comment makes the moment where Martha, after fully performing the iteration of her in the magazines, reads Amanda’s first drafts aloud so much more poignant. Queerness in the Woman of the West is erased for the stories to be palatable, but the whole of Amanda’s innocent love for Martha is restored when Martha returns Amanda’s name, and Amanda’s own authorship back to her. Martha in that case is literally yet another reader, restoring the queer context back into function after it had been forcibly deactivated. We could be those readers too.

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