Liberation from Society and our Bodies

“I wanted my words to be seen. I wanted Martha to be in the vision of the world, with her low-slung belly swaying in the morning of a culture. Martha, the adamant vision: the woman standing on the scalloped shell emerging from the sea (Stinson, pg 106).”

Amanda’s writings about Martha have created a sense of freedom that she has never felt. She feels a sense of liberation from the societal norms that had haunted her through her marriage, and she has slowly felt less stifled by the biblical world that she has been stuck in. Her imagination and innovation as a woman in her community are remarkable and the idea that she can freely write creates a sense of female liberation. She has become a role model for the women in her community, and the readers of the novel as well. Amanda’s character development shows how a supportive and loyal partner can bring out the best in us.

The passage is important to the main themes of the book because it shows Amanda’s true feelings for Martha, and her sense of body positivity when describing Martha’s physique. At the beginning of the novel, Amanda would not have had the courage to discuss or write about these ideas and thoughts. However, Martha’s influence on Amanda was liberating for her and her words on the page reflect this.

The concept of body and body image in this novel is a breath of fresh air. The way that Amanda describes Martha, and her low-slung belly would be an insult to many people, however, Martha’s body is celebrated by Amanda and her descriptions of Martha’s bodies reflect her feelings rather than what society might dictate. This is another example of the freedom and liberation that forms throughout the novel.

I often wish that I had the tenacity to discuss bodies in the way that Susan Stinson does in her writing. The ability to worry about one’s judgment and to have a positive outlook on what society dictates as bad or disgusting is in its way liberating and takes off the pressure that society weighs us down with. Many women see our physique as a form of identity, and society perpetuates this. What we wear and how we look, should not be what defines us and is certainly not the only aspect of our identity that matters. Susan Stinson is a true role model for redefining female identity and looking at who we are on the inside rather than how we look on the outside.

2 thoughts on “Liberation from Society and our Bodies”

  1. The quote you picked out is a great representation of how Amanda sees Martha and how she has built her up but, I don’t think Martha sees herself as the woman that people look up to. You say Martha is a loyal and supportive partner but I don’t know how much that rings true throughout the story. Martha even admits to being scared of starting new. I think the writing and idea of Martha created freedom for Amanda first as we saw her slowly walk away from aspects of society and she was able to help get Martha to that liberation and realize the strong woman she (Martha) has always been.

  2. I think it’s so interesting that Amanda pulls out this figure of Venus emerging on a seashell as a representation for Martha and the beauty she inhabits. Renaissance art is known for having women with curves and fat and being beautiful, and while it’s easy to recognize these women as beautiful in antiquity, society so often fails to recognize women who look like that today as beautiful. Amanda’s growth isn’t just in being a better partner, it’s also in recognizing beauty without putting any caveats on it. She doesn’t say Martha is fat, but she’s gorgeous. She says Martha is fat and gorgeous.

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