In The Country of the Pointed Firs, the narrator learns how to be. By be, I mean how to simply exist. There’s no specific rules or guidelines for how to live, the only thing that matters is that you are existing. This theme of existence is present in each of the women’s stories. Mrs. Todd lost her husband and never loved him, she was still in love with her first love. But, even through the heartache, she still continued to exist. She lost the man she truly loved, and then she lost the next man who loved her the way she loved her first man. Even though this is heavy on her heart, she is still existing. Joanna had heart broken by her boyfriend when he dumped her. She was so heartbroken that she fled society and lived the rest of her days on a secluded lot. But, even though the heartbreak was unbearable, she still continued to exist. All of the women experienced tragedy in some way, yet they endured it and lived through it and grew from it. By sharing these women’s stories, the author is showing how we must continue to exist. It also shows the strength of women, and the many different ways that women are strong.
Strength may sometimes be perceived as this masculine and superficial thing, but women possess more strength than men. It is important that the author created this novel full of courageous women to show the horrid events women have to endure yet they are strong enough to go on. Women are typically viewed, and depicted in novels, as weak and fragile. But, that is not the case in this book. It is also not the case in real life. Women are strong. Women endure things like pregnancy and labor, heartbreak, pain for beauty, abuse from men, and simply everyday life. But, what is so powerful and strong about women is that through all of this, they fight on.
One of the biggest symbols of strength in the novel is Joanna. She is not even alive, or have a voice in the novel, yet she is a legend, a hero, and a story of courage to be told to other women for centuries. Joanna experienced extreme heartbreak. I think the reason the women honor her so much is because she didn’t kill herself. She was strong and lived through it. She had to remove herself from society and live alone, but she was living. And, I feel since she lived, even though in a non-traditional way, the fact that she lived made her a hero. This caused me to think about the idea of suicide and the author’s views on it. Has the author ever felt suicidal, or have any of her loved ones ever felt suicidal? Was this novel her way of trying to sway someone, or herself, away from suicide? Does she feel suicide is cowardly and fighting the desire is courageous? I think this is a possible theme of the story, to live through it. No matter what you have to do, just make sure you live through it.
More than just Joanna, all of the women in the novel are existing after all they have been through, exemplifying how strong they are. Women are depicted as strong women in this book. It is a mental strong more than a physical strong. And, it is fascinating that this is everyday stuff women endure: break-ups, relationships with children, regret, becoming widows, and whatnot. I also noticed how it is also the men causing all of the problems for the women. Whether it was a spouse, a boyfriend, a brother, or a son. The men put a strain on the women. They were breaking their hearts or distant and cold. This is stuff women endure every day, in the text and in real life. It is a connection to the female population. It shows how anchors are thrown at women, typically by men, yet they don’t let themselves sink.
The narrator, through all of the women of the novel, learns the many ways a woman can be ripped apart, but the most important thing the narrator learns from the women is that no matter how many times they try to rip you apart, you have to stay whole. And, there are many different ways to hold yourself together. Her realization of this is apparent when she is getting ready to leave the house and she is sort of wiping the slate clean. She describes her next destination as a new chapter. That is what we must realize, we may endure horrid things, but those things eventually go away. We have to live through it, because the next chapter comes soon. You flip the page, and start the next chapter, and you get a new start.