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The Female Persuasion | Study Guide

Meg Wolitzer

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Course Hero. "The Female Persuasion Study Guide." Course Hero. 1 Dec. 2019. Web. 2 Feb. 2023. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Female-Persuasion/>.

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Course Hero. "The Female Persuasion Study Guide." December 1, 2019. Accessed February 2, 2023. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Female-Persuasion/.

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Course Hero, "The Female Persuasion Study Guide," December 1, 2019, accessed February 2, 2023, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Female-Persuasion/.

The Female Persuasion | Plot Summary

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Summary

The Strong Ones

In this coming-of-age story, also known as a Bildungsroman, Greer Kadetsky begins her first week at Ryland College with a mix of emotions that starts with resentment. She blames her parents for her not being able to attend Yale University despite being accepted. She is also separated from her longtime boyfriend, Cory Pinto, who is attending Princeton University. While at Ryland she meets Zee, who becomes her friend and ushers her into the world of feminism. The night the girls first meet they end up at a fraternity party where Greer is assaulted by Darren Tinzler. Zee's activism begins to rub off on Greer, and they attend a campus lecture given by feminist Faith Frank. Greer and Zee have a chance meeting with Faith in the ladies' restroom afterward. Greer has an opportunity to talk to Faith about Darren and her parents. Faith encourages and cautions Greer as she copes with what happened with Darren. Faith sees something in Greer that prompts her to give Greer a business card at the end of their conversation. Meeting Faith changes Greer's life and her ultimate trajectory. The distance between Greer and Cory begins to take a toll on their relationship, and both experience moments of unfaithfulness. They continue to Skype with each other, and Greer visits Cory at Princeton to be physically close to him.

Greer and Cory began as educational nemeses and become intimate companions. They also come from very different families. Greer's family never eats dinner together at the table; instead the table is always covered with protein bars. In addition, Greer's parents seem distracted and interested in their own endeavors, while Cory's parents live for their boys. Cory's family eats together, and his parents are very attentive. They know when colleges will be notifying students of acceptance and are ready with homemade cakes depicting the potential choices available to Cory. By contrast Greer's parents are caught by surprise when she tells them where she is accepted. Greer longs for a supportive family like Cory has in his parents and younger brother, Alby. Cory does not understand why Greer's parents do not appreciate her. Cory also defends Greer from his classmates and loses interest in pornography because he no longer needs the fantasy—he has Greer. The different family experiences illustrate the impact that personal experiences have on one's perspective and interpretation of similar events.

Twin Rocket Ships

Greer has been dreaming about she and Cory working in New York and living together. Her mother, Laurel, feeds into these dreams by referring to Cory and Greer as twin rocket ships. The thoughts of their future have so consumed Greer's mind that it is a shock when they both graduate and their lives again go in different directions. Cory has a flashy new consulting job in Manila—Greer does not. In an attempt to change her employment status, Greer reaches out to Faith Frank and Bloomer magazine only to find out that Bloomer is closing its doors. Dejected, Greer returns home to her parents and begins working in a local skating rink.

Greer is not the only one whose postgraduation job leaves something to be desired. Zee feels forced by her parents, who are both judges, into working as a paralegal. Zee is miserable. One night Greer is shocked when she reads an e-mail from Faith Frank and goes to a second interview with her role model. Faith offers Greer an entry level position in her new foundation, Loci, and Greer jumps at the opportunity to work with the woman she has idolized since their restroom meeting in college. Zee sees an opportunity to make a difference and work alongside Greer at Loci, so she asks Greer to give Faith a letter. Greer does not want to share this moment, or Faith, with anyone—even Zee—and decides not to give Faith the letter, lying to Zee by telling her that she did.

Despite being disappointed Zee moves forward and becomes a teacher in Chicago. She struggles as a teacher, and her career reaches a tipping point when she finds herself delivering the baby of one of her students in the nurse's office. Once the delivery is over and emergency personnel take over, she finds herself processing the events with the attractive school counselor, Noelle Williams. All the while Greer has been progressing at Loci. She now writes speeches and sees her dreams come true when she is invited to spend the weekend with her coworkers at Faith Frank's house. Greer is so enamored with Faith that she denies her own principles and eats meat because she thinks it is what Faith wants her to do. After the weekend ends and Greer reconnects with reality, she learns that tragedy has shattered Cory's family.

Cory abandons his job in Manila as soon as he gets the news that his brother Alby has died. When he gets home he realizes how terrible the news really is because Alby was run over by his own mother, Benedita. Cory's father, Duarte, cannot cope and returns to Portugal, leaving Cory to take care of Benedita. Benedita's grief is so intense that she has a mental breakdown and loses the ability to function on her own. Cory is left to not only deal with his own immense grief and depression but also his mother's. As a way of coping he cleans the houses his mother used to clean and finds a type of release in the activity. Cory's new reality, however, places a strain on his relationship with Greer, who cannot understand why it is taking Cory so long to grieve. The shift of focus to Cory shows how feminism and its ideals stretch beyond gender lines. It also demonstrates the process of having idealized views of life and situations torn down, shaken up, restructured, and ultimately recreated in a more informed way.

I Get To Decide

One night Faith thinks about her own background and how her trajectory began in college with parental conflict. She wanted to go away to college and her parents did not support her. After she graduated she ran away to Las Vegas with a friend and became a waitress. Vegas was full of firsts for her that defined who she is. She met Emmett Shrader and helped her friend survive the harrowing ordeal of an illegal abortion and the complications that followed. The experience propelled her into the world of feminism and womens' rights, which led to a job with Bloomer magazine and crossing paths with Emmett Shrader again. She slept with him, but after realizing he was married and had a family she cut all contact. At Bloomer she discovered her natural gift for public speaking, but when Bloomer went out of business Emmett Shrader offered to fund a women's foundation. She was hesitant but eventually accepted and named the foundation Loci. The backdrop of feminism and the various types that are present in the novel, from the outdated to the modern and edgy, provides commentary on the impact time has on the way events, people, and decisions are viewed.

It is at Loci that Faith begins mentoring Greer. She checks in with Greer when she seems upset, encourages her, and gives her additional responsibilities. Greer begins writing speeches for some of the women who speak for Loci events. Exhausted, Faith decides to step back from public speaking and asks Greer to not only write a speech for Lupe Izurieta and the keynote speaker but to be the keynote speaker. Greer has mixed emotions and is not sure why Faith is giving up such an important responsibility, but she prepares both speeches and delivers a rousing keynote speech about people who give women permission to be who they really are.

Greer is shocked when she learns that the Ecuadorian mentoring program that Lupe delivered a speech about does not actually exist. After an internal debate about whether Faith knew or not, Greer goes with Faith to her hair appointment and confronts her with the truth. Faith is shocked, but what is more shocking to Greer is Faith's ability to live with the deception in order to accomplish a greater good. Greer's ethical ideals win out, and she quits her job at Loci. When she is heading back to her office, a wounded Faith accuses Greer of having ethics when it suits her purposes, referencing Zee's letter that Greer never gave to Faith. Greer feels so hurt and guilty after Faith's rebuke that she runs out of the office.

Outside Voices

A tired Faith confronts Emmett Shrader about the mentor program in Ecuador. Emmett blames his attention span limitations for not fully comprehending what was happening with the Ecuador project and inadvertently agreeing to a cover-up. Faith and Emmett go over their legacies and how they got to this point. Emmett professes his past and current feelings for her, but Faith keeps him at arm's length and her private life remains private. Emmett dies having never fully reconnected with Faith.

After leaving Loci, a purposeless Greer confesses to Zee that she never gave Faith Zee's letter. Zee, who was ready support Greer, does not understand how her friend could not just tell her the truth before. The situation becomes so tense that Greer does not stay in Chicago and instead goes back to the airport. After a therapeutic visit home Greer frequents coffee shops and dives back into the world of literature. She is in a state of flux when she gets a call from Cory. He is coming into town under the prompting of his investor. Cory is creating a video game called SoulFinder that is inspired by his journey through the grief of losing his brother. Years before, Greer had offered to let Cory stay with her whenever he was in town, and he decides to take her up on her offer. They spend an awkward night catching up with each other. Greer is painfully self-conscious, but her new position in life has made her see Cory from a new perspective.

Several years later Cory and Greer marry and have a daughter. Greer is a best-selling author and her book Outside Voices has so far enjoyed a year on the best-seller list. She and Zee have rebuilt their friendship, but Greer and Faith never reconnect. Greer reminisces about what she would say or write to Faith about her life now, but she never does. Instead, she throws herself into mentoring her daughter's babysitter, Kay Chung, touring her book, and speaking. Ultimately she realizes that she has replaced Faith and one day Kay will replace her.

The Female Persuasion Plot Diagram

123456789101112131415ClimaxResolutionIntroductionRising ActionFalling Action

Introduction

1 Greer attends college, meets Zee, and is molested at a party.

Rising Action

2 Faith Frank gives Greer her business card.

3 Greer remembers how she and Cory met.

4 Greer and Cory graduate and continue to lead separate lives.

5 Greer gets an e-mail for another interview from Faith Frank.

6 Greer works for Faith at the Loci Foundation.

7 Greer does not give Faith the letter that Zee wrote.

8 Greer goes to be with Cory after his brother Alby dies.

9 Greer and Cory break up.

10 Greer gives the keynote speech with Lupe Izurieta.

Climax

11 Greer finds out that her speech was a lie and quits her job.

Falling Action

12 Greer confesses to Zee about her letter to Faith.

13 Cory visits Greer in New York.

14 Greer writes a best-selling novel titled Outside Voices.

Resolution

15 Greer realizes Kay Chung will replace her as she did Faith.

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