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The Female Persuasion | Study Guide

Meg Wolitzer

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The Female Persuasion | Quotes


As long as women are separate ... organized around competition ... it will be the rare woman who is not ... narrowed and limited.

Faith Frank, Part 1, Chapter 1

Feminism is focused on broadening the definition of a woman and what a woman can do. "Organized around competition" speaks to both the different waves of feminism and to the characters. Greer and Zee end up in competition where one places limits on the other. The main message of Faith's statement, though, is that all women should work together simply because they are women. It is a major portion of her definition of "sisterhood" that she believes everyone should work toward.


But instead of giving Zee a card, Faith closed her wallet and returned it to her bag.

Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 1

Faith chooses one girl over the other. She has just finished talking about sisterhood and not being in competition with one another, yet she places Greer and Zee in competition. They were equal with each other before entering into the conversation with Faith, but afterwards Greer has been elevated simply by Faith giving her a business card. The card is like money that came from Faith's wallet and places more value on Greer in that moment, even though Zee has been a follower of Faith for years.


Someone had to see something in you and speak to you in a way that no one else ever had.

Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 2

The fact that Greer thinks someone else has to motivate you "to make your world dynamic" illustrates that Greer relies heavily on those around her. Instead of taking the initiative, she feels she has to be motivated by someone who has more power in the world and in society than she does. This is echoed in the idea that powerful women become that way because another woman gave them "permission" to be themselves. The vagueness of the words "someone," "something," and "in a way" demonstrate Greer's longing to feel special, but she does not fully understand how that will happen. Her drive to do something that makes her important and different from her parents is what motivates her character and ultimately becomes a type of character flaw that contributes to conflict.


We have to move forward now.

Laurel Kadetsky, Part 1, Chapter 3

The idea of moving forward is key to the plot and themes of the novel. Characters have to get over pain, heartache, and loss. Some want to move forward quickly, while some choose to stand still for a while. The narration itself contradicts the idea of only moving forward because the characters are constantly jumping into past memories. The juxtaposition of the structure and the image of moving forward speaks to both the struggle for power that pushes forward but slides back and the disruption of the idyllic by reality. When Laurel first says "move forward" it is for Greer to get past a loss and keep living, but later she tells Greer to slow down. Everyone wants to move forward in life and tries to, but sometimes reality can bring forward progress to a halt.


The letter, slanted against brown glass, seemed to emit its own light. Greer lifted her bottle, and the letter dropped onto the surface of the bar as if it had been felled.

Narrator, Part 2, Chapter 4

Zee's letter to Faith Frank requesting a job has shed light on Greer's underlying jealousy and desire to set herself apart from her friend. When it "emits its own light," the letter is not only shining a light on Zee as far as the content goes but also the future of Zee and Greer's friendship. Their friendship is currently "slanted," and as Greer rises in her career and ambitions the friendship will drop "as if it had been felled." It is also a reference to what will ultimately happen with the letter, as Greer will not give it to Faith. She will drop it in the bottom of her purse and forget about it.


To eat meat ... was an aberration ... cannibalism ... it was an act of love.

Greer Kadetsky, Part 2, Chapter 5

When Greer eats meat she has been a vegetarian for four years, which is the amount of time she will end up working for Loci before the act of love eats her alive as a form of feminist cannibalism. Cannibalism is traditionally thought of as the consumption of meat of the same species like human eating human, pig eating pig, and so on. It is also used to refer to one company absorbing or taking over a smaller one. Greer is allowing herself to be consumed and absorbed by Faith. She is not standing up for herself or being her own person. She sees her actions as an "act of love" for Faith. Greer also fears that she will displease Faith and become someone who disappoints her. Greer's eating of meat symbolizes how she is figuratively eating herself by allowing Faith to influence her in this way.


Power: who had it right now, the older woman or the younger one.

Zee Eisenstat, Part 2, Chapter 7

The question of who has the power, how they have the power, how long they keep the power, and how someone else gets that power are key questions that motivate the characters. Age is a catalyst in the struggle for power. The younger women want the power the older women have, but they do not know what experiences the older women have had that gave them the power in the first place. Then the older a person gets the less physical power they have, and eventually they will be able to wield less social or political power simply because of their age. By expressing uncertainty around who has the power, the novel establishes the idea that power is fluid. It fluctuates between the ages and is not truly in one or the other. If it was only in one place, the answer to the question would be easy to give.


Power was hard to understand ... quantify ... or calibrate ... You could barely see it.

Narrator, Part 2, Chapter 7

Power and how it is defined is a primary theme. Calibrating is when someone sets a standard that everything else is read against. It helps someone determine where they fall within the requirements. To say power is hard to calibrate is to say that power cannot be standardized. It is too complex of an idea to nail down. In addition, it is hard to see because a person's perspective changes based on their experience with power. Since power is complex and difficult to understand, it becomes a struggle to attain and maintain it.


Because when a man speaks that way ... he has authority.

Faith Frank, Part 3, Chapter 8

A double standard exists within male and female interactions. Women want to be taken seriously and have their opinions listened to without their gender being the focus. However, women make the assumption, as Faith does, that if women speak the way they perceive men speak then they will be treated differently. It is a power struggle—a struggle between who has the power to command authority when they speak and who does not.


All you ever had to do to make a bad moment flee was acquiesce.

Narrator, Part 3, Chapter 9

To acquiesce is to accept something without fighting back; to give up. The idea that giving up makes bad situations or unwanted situations go away does not work in reality. Acquiescing in a bad moment means a person has given in or accepted what they previously thought was bad. That does not actually make the bad moment "flee"—it only changes the name. When a bad moment is accepted it is simply a reality. Because the changing of a title does not innately change the nature of the feeling or the moment, this is an example of hyperbole being used to create a sarcastic effect. A moment cannot "flee"; it either ends or lasts beyond a moment and becomes something else.


No one will think less of you. There are no grades anymore.

Laurel Kadetsky, Part 4, Chapter 11

Working toward something because they think that is what they should do contributes to the idea that a person has no direction. There is a sense of powerlessness that says, "I don't know where to go or what to do, so I will just go this way." Because making a decision provides some power and control when these things seem otherwise impossible, it becomes a compulsion or obsession. When a person is compelled to do something or obsessed with something they do not actually pay attention to their surroundings and sometimes even to the results.


You take them under your wing ... fling them away ... you fling them too hard.

Faith Frank, Part 4, Chapter 12

Faith Frank sees herself as a mentor and believes that part of her job is to let her mentees go. She comes to this idea for comfort because Greer has quit and Faith is powerless to stop her. Faith liked Greer and saw something in her that she wanted to encourage. The image of "flinging them too hard" adds to the sense of power. Faith does not seem to know her own strength because she is capable of flinging too hard. Faith is also portraying a picture that has her deciding when Greer should be flung away. In actuality Greer decides on her own. Phrasing it in this way, however, gives Faith power—she is trying to convince herself that she still has the same power she always possessed.


She was plasma to them.

Narrator, Part 4, Chapter 12

Plasma is a life-giving element within the bloodstream and the human body. Without it the human body is unable to sustain life on its own. When Faith is compared to plasma she is given this same power. Plasma allows the body to function by bringing protein, antibodies, and other minerals such as glucose where they are needed. It is also the clear portion that is left after the blood is gone. The idea is presented that even after things end Faith will remain. Her impact and value will live on in what she does and how she has impacted women along the way.


One person replaces another ... that's what we do, over and over.

Greer Kadetsky, Part 4, Chapter 15

The cyclical nature of life is based on the idea that everything comes back around to the start. When one person is nearing the end of their life, another is just starting out. Eventually the person just starting out will near their end, and so the cycle repeats. When a company loses an employee, the employee gets replaced. Even the act of breathing is the cycle of replacing carbon dioxide with oxygen and oxygen with carbon dioxide. New skin cells replace old ones in a constant cycle. The only time a replacement does not happen is when the process is broken by disease, death, or the ultimate destruction of the cycle itself.


In the end, she thought, the turtle might outlive them all.

Greer Kadetsky, Part 4, Chapter 15

Slowy the turtle represents the idea that slowness, care, and consistency will win out in the end. He allows characters to reflect on their actions and their legacy by slowing down and being in the moment. When the novel ends in a reflective moment for Greer, Slowy appears. He is Alby's legacy to the world, and Greer has been thinking about what her legacy is turning into. Will it be in mentorship of younger women, her book, or her daughter? As she reflects she realizes that power is fleeting but legacy is lasting. Her legacy will not be centered on the struggle for power that seemed to preoccupy her youth. She has grown wiser, and this final line hints at the idea that readers too should be wiser at this moment.

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