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The Female Persuasion | Study Guide

Meg Wolitzer

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The Female Persuasion | Part 4, Chapter 11 : Outside Voices | Summary



After confessing to Zee that she lied years ago about Zee's letter, Greer does not spend the night at Zee's apartment and goes back to the airport instead. At the airport Greer calls her mother and decides to go to her childhood home rather than her own apartment. Once back home Greer goes with her mother to the library and starts to get embarrassed when Laurel begins her clown act. Her feelings change, though, when she sees her mother interact with the children and realizes that they not only enjoyed the act but "looked up to the library clown." On the way back home Greer asks why she did not know her mother was so good and why her mother had not performed for her as a child. Laurel confesses that she did not think Greer would like it.

Eventually Greer tells her mother what happened with Faith and how Faith turned on her after quitting. Laurel tells her to "take a little time. Go slowly." She continues to encourage Greer, and then Greer confesses she betrayed Zee. When they get home Greer sees Cory leaving his house. She has a hard time knowing he is "not connected to her anymore." She walks over to say hello and they hug. The two walk to Pie Land to talk some more, and Greer tells him she quit her job. She finds out Cory is still cleaning houses but also working at a computer store and creating a video game called SoulFinder. Cory tells Greer that his game is based on the idea that "you try to find the person you've lost." They then go back to their houses. Before Greer goes inside she asks how "Slowy" is, and Cory says "he's basically the same."

On Greer's last night her father asks how Cory is and what he has been doing. She tells him what Cory is doing but focuses mostly on the fact that Cory is living at home with his mother and still cleaning houses, so "not that much." Greer's mother admonishes her and points out that "Cory is kind of a big feminist" because he dropped everything to help his family, moved back home, takes care of his mother, and "cleans his own house, and the ones [his mother] used to clean."


Going fast is set against going slow at this stage in Greer's life. Greer's career has come to an abrupt halt, and her friendship is not the same either. She is "destroyed." When something is destroyed it takes time to rebuild. There is a clearing that happens, a redesigning, and then a building, all of which cannot happen overnight. However, Greer expects this to happen quickly or at least wants to make it so, which becomes evident when her mother suggests she "go slowly." Greer says she despises that idea and claims that it is not "the way [she's] built." Greer's foundation is based on her desire to do and be the opposite of her parents. She has seen them as lackluster, flaky parents who seem to be going through life aimlessly. She does not understand their purpose or why they move so slowly. She does not want to be like her parents.

Greer has been focused on how something looks: the superficial exterior and not the foundation that makes something what it is. It takes her mother to point out what Greer really is. Laurel shows Greer that she feels this "compulsion to keep striving ... for the sake of striving" and equates it to Greer's desire to get good grades in every subject. The image of earning grades and being preoccupied with grades reinforces Greer's misguided focus. Grades are a shell for measuring a person's knowledge; they are not the actual knowledge. Grades do not determine what a person truly knows, but they can make a person appear to have a certain level of intellect. Greer has been preoccupied with the way things appear instead of what they are. She has to "forget about how it looks" and "think about what it is" in order to right herself. Her perspective has to change and that takes time. The imagery of a building continues when Greer sees Cory. He "broke her down a little each time" she sees him because he has "fully inhabited" his life while she has not.

Greer wants to continue moving fast and, in a conversation with Cory, thinks about saying "once we were twin rocket ships." She does not want to slow down. She wants to keep shooting up in the world, and she wants Cory to do so as well. She thinks Cory is moving too slowly in life and should be going faster. It is as if thinking or saying that they were twin rocket ships would motivate him to again become the person Greer expects him to be instead of who he is, echoing Laurel's point from earlier. Then Greer asks how Slowy is, and the idea of knowing how something seems versus how something actually is comes up again when Cory responds. He finally ends up saying, "he's basically the same." The turtle appears to be the way he always has been, and Greer wishes she and Cory could be how they used to be. Greer begins to place herself above Cory in her mind and look down on him for what he has been doing, or rather what he has not. She thinks he is moving too slowly like the turtle.

When Greer's father asks how Cory is and what he has been doing she ends with "not that much," which causes her mother to again call her out for placing her ideals onto someone else. Laurel points out the irony in the situation because Greer has been working as a feminist, striving for women to be seen as equal with men, and yet she has expressed a prejudicial and stereotypical view of masculinity—the very thing she is asking men not to do for her gender. She thinks Cory is moving too slowly and that his work as a housecleaner and caretaker for his mother is not as worthwhile as what he was doing before. This discussion illustrates the two fights that exist within feminism. One says women should be able to experience an equal level of success in the corporate world, while the other says work that is seen as traditionally female should be appreciated for what it is and those who choose not to pursue careers in the corporate world should not be looked down on. This idea of deciding for oneself echoes the title of Part 3 of the novel: I Get To Decide.

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