The Woman Who Walked Into Doors

Topics: Domestic violence, Postcolonialism, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak Pages: 15 (5687 words) Published: July 12, 2012
Paula's voice, in which the entire novel is related, combines convincing staccato storytelling, slangy working-class diction, frank revelations, and agonized reconstruction of the past in sometimes profane and often touching tones. Here Paula remembers her teenaged self, both attracted and repelled by the man she will so disastrously marry:   He was a ride. It was the best way to describe him, from the first time I heard of him to the last time I saw him. He wasn't,t gorgeous. There was never anything gorgeous about him. When we made love the first time in the field when we were drunk, especially me, and I didn't really know what was happening, only his weight and wanting to get sick@ I felt terrible after it, scared and soggy, guilty and sore. It would have helped if he'd been gorgeous, like Robert Redford or Lee Majors. They'd have picked me up and carried me home, they wouldn't have fucked me in a field in the first place, not one of the fields where I came from that weren't really fields at all, just bits left over after the building was finished. Charlo stood up. - Fuckin, cold.   I do not doubt the authenticity of this voice, and I admire the evocation of poverty not only in the setting - the left-over fields - and in the man's callous remark, but in the woman's denuded vocabulary of desire: he's a "ride," he's not "gorgeous." In the ensuing sections Doyle succeeds in showing the gradual increase in Paula's realism about her husband, as she ceases to "make him nice" retroactively. The terse concluding remarks of the novel, after Paula has finally driven Charlo out of the house, represent a triumph: "It was a great feeling. I'd done something good."   Perhaps because for the first time in this novel Doyle limits himself to a woman's perspective, critics have celebrated his taking "a daring step in a new direction," as the publicity for the novel cheers. (Doyle's success with a woman's voice will not surprise readers who recall the pungent utterances of Sharon in The Barrytown Trilogy.) Yet I think that in The Woman Who Walked into Doors Doyle takes his customary radical limitation of perspective in a rather more predictable direction, one that ultimately hinders the effect of the book. Doyle's,s early novels rely very heavily on pure scene, in which dialogue rather than inner thoughts dominates. The Commitments reads almost like screenplay. (Perhaps for this reason it is an example of that rare phenomenon a novel improved by being rendered in film - in Alan Parker's 1991 movie of the same title.) The Booker Prize-winning novel Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha explore with remarkable subtlety the development of a small boys interiority and empathy, as he simultaneously masters language and discovers a new understanding of pain. Paddy's experience of pain becomes more complex as the inevitable break-up of his parents grows nearer, and he gains the capacity to imagine, rather than simply enjoy what he calls "the crunch of someone else's pain." A turning point in the novel occurs when Paddy overhears his father slapping his mother; that single off-stage blow oddly seems more painful to this reader than the horrific catalog of injuries in The Woman Who Walked into Doors. In Paddy Clarke, the rigorous confinement of the fiction to the child's mind and voice works because he is both victim and witness, and because the reader can always see a bit more rapidly than he does what the signs and portents Paddy records really mean. This gives the novel a sense of foreboding that The Woman Who Walked into Doors entirely lacks.   Paula Spencer is a trickier kind of witness: one who has blacked out and been knocked unconscious too often to tell her story straight." Unlike Paddy Clarke, she has no special affinity for language. That limitation of perspective means that we cannot see what the doctors, nurses, and relatives see, or fail to register. Further, it means that Charlo remains just as much a cipher to us as he is to his wife, who, after...
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