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The Female Persuasion | Study Guide

Meg Wolitzer

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The Female Persuasion | Part 2, Chapter 6 : Twin Rocket Ships | Summary



Cory is at the airport in Manila and has been crying for several hours. He has no luggage with him because of the panic he felt after receiving a phone call from his father. Cory's mother did not see his brother Alby in the driveway and ran him over as she backed out, killing him. Cory kept trying to get hold of Greer but heard nothing back, and he could not leave the information in a message. Cory compares his grief with what it was like when he first arrived in Manila and mentions to his driver that he could go off the road because Cory wants to die. He tells his driver that his brother was killed by his mother. The driver then pulls over and the two smoke a cigarette together as a way of coping in the moment and processing the horrible nature of the situation.

By the time Cory gets home Greer is waiting for him. As she comforts him Cory thinks back to what it was like to have baby Alby in the house and to watch him grow up. Both Greer and Cory cry on the couch together until they hear dinner being made. Cory realizes that Greer has left work and the summit to be there with him. She encourages Cory to go upstairs and see his mother and asks why she could not see Alby. Cory's father does not return home, so Cory stays with Greer at her house. The two of them have sex, and Cory thinks about how Alby would have enjoyed having sex someday. After the wake and funeral Cory's father leaves and returns to Lisbon, telling Cory he will not return. Cory spends the next few days looking at videos of speeches from the summit and feels terrible that Greer missed it because of him.

Cory's mother has a psychotic breakdown and needs supervision. Everyone else has to return to their jobs and lives, including Greer, but Cory decides to stay and take care of his mother. He goes into Alby's room and reads through all of his school papers in an attempt to feel like Alby is still there. He reads notes that Alby had made about his turtle Slowy and immediately looks for Slowy. The turtle is missing, and Cory now knows that Alby was in the driveway doing research and observing Slowy. Cory runs out to the front yard and finds the turtle still there in the grass. Cory initially thinks the turtle is dead, but Slowy moves. Cory calls his father to tell him that Alby's death was not his mother's fault, but it does not change how his father feels. Cory takes care of Alby and his mother.

Elaine Newman calls to see if her Thursday morning house-cleaning slot is still available. Cory goes and cleans the house in his mother's place because they need the money. He finds pride and enjoyment in cleaning and has now taken over his mother's house cleaning. He thinks of all the times he let so many different women clean up after him over the years. Cory has also never cooked an entire meal for himself, and he begins decoding his mother's recipe cards and cooking.

Cory goes to visit his aunt's house for Sunday dinner and sees his cousin Sab. The two of them do drugs together. Cory vomits on Sab's floor and misses the entire dinner. Cory eventually gets his mother home safely, sleeps for 13 hours, and wakes up with a headache. Greer calls and talks about what is going on with Loci in New York. Cory is not very responsive. She asks him if he wants to be a consultant for an upcoming project, and he turns it down. Greer does not understand and the conversation ends.

Cory continues to deal with the grief of his brother's death by taking care of Slowy, and he then begins taking his own research-style notes in Alby's notebooks. His notes are observations about Cory's life and actions over five days. Nothing is changing so he stops and begins playing Alby's video games. He does heroin one last time with Sab but decides to be absorbed by Alby's notebooks and games instead of drugs.

Greer visits, but it seems to upset Cory's mother. Their relationship is falling apart, and Greer does not understand Cory anymore. Greer feels like Cory has separated himself from her. Eventually Greer convinces him to leave the house for a little while. Even the pizza place they used to go to seems foreign and changed. There are fewer people and the games are gone. Cory confesses that he snorted heroin, and they struggle to understand each other, eventually leaving after both contributing to the tip.


The role of speed or time and the idea that one thing can replace the other, or at least try, is central to this chapter. The heart-wrenching fact that Alby has now stopped and is no longer moving rips Cory's family apart. When Alby's mother ran her son over, he was studying Slowy. He was so focused on his turtle and the research he was conducting that life passed him by. The imagery of going and stopping is repeated when Cory's mother stops but his father goes. Benedita stops functioning, and her inability to cope coupled with the situation causes Cory's father to leave the country and never return. This is modeled later with Cory and Greer. Cory gets stopped by his grief, and Greer eventually goes back to her life and the foundation. The cycle continues to repeat in Cory's life.

Another cycle is that of roles. Gender and family roles tend to feel static or at least appear that way. Cory's role changes as a direct result of his grief. His first role reversal occurs when he realizes that Slowy is the reason Alby was so close to the ground, and Cory becomes Slowy's caretaker. He even sleeps in Alby's room to keep Slowy in his familiar home. Slowy becomes a surrogate and companion for Cory. As part of his grief he projects all the care he is unable to give his brother onto his turtle. He even begins writing in notebooks about himself like Alby had done when researching and analyzing Slowy's behavior. The entries in the notebook are focused on collecting data about himself, replacing even Slowy's role. Cory also becomes his mother's caretaker. For his entire life she took care of him, and now he must do that for her. He ultimately becomes a masculine form of his mother right down to cleaning the houses she used to clean. Through this cycle he becomes aware of how much satisfaction he gets from the cleaning and being good at it. As the narrator summarizes, "He took surprising pride in the simple act of cleaning up." Pride makes a person stand taller and exude more confidence. Cory had not had the opportunity to develop this pride or these skills until now because everyone—his mother, his house cleaner in Manila, Greer—had done these tasks for him.

Greer does not understand why Cory is taking on these different roles. It seems to her that he is forgetting his own life. Cory, on the other hand, sees it as his life now. This inability to see the same situation from the same angle and interpret it the same causes tension in their relationship. Greer sees Cory as stopped in time as a result of his grief, and she feels powerless to help. Both are looking at the same situation but from two different perspectives, which creates a duplicity that neither completely understands. Greer sees Cory as being "uninterested in the outside world," but Cory sees it as her world. Greer's life "had become abstract to him." The two again go through a time of being uneven; on different sides of the same situation. This is amplified by the tip they leave at the pizza restaurant. Because they are no longer in the same place they both leave a tip, making the total too much. A person could look at this from two different perspectives. One perspective says it is a compliment and a thank you for good service, while the other could see it as an insult or some form of charity. Grief and tragedy have taken something that was easy before and made it hard, showing that everything does truly get replaced with someone or something else.

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