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Daughter of the Revolution is a novel that shows the social life between the years 1963 and 2005. In her book Carolyn Cooke, the author, explores characters held by confines of social class and gender issues. Though set in New England preparatory school, the theme of the book touches the everyday life in most parts of the world. This is because it shades light to women empowerment and transformation of society.
The story surrounds a boy school called Goode School in Cape Wilde town. In the beginning of the chapter, two young men, Archer and Heck, go kayaking off the southern coast of Boston. Archer comes from a well-off family with money, while Heck comes from a struggling family. Heck is a good student and a promising graduate. While both boys are out in a dangerous day trip, Heck gets drowned.
The different stories that follow the initial tragedy are full of lessons. By use of different characters in school, the author makes the story captivating. The author brings out the segregation vice using a little girl, Carole Faust. Carole gets admitted to Goode School as a result of a clerical error. Carole was the only black student in the school. Through the explicit characterization of the head-teacher, Goddard Byrd, the author brings out the flaws in the administration of the school as well as the discrimination along race alienation. The head-teacher nicknamed ‘God’ exclaims that Carole Faust would be admitted over his death body. ‘God’ became repulsively old in the struggle to fight the psychological and ideological effects of his life. Carole paints the head teachers of schools as failing administrators and condemns the racial discrimination. She called her project ‘The Venerable Heads’.
There are different characters with unusual character traits used in the book to intertwine the stories. Apart from Goddard, Carole, and Heck, there are also other characters. Heck had a wife, or widow called Mei Mei. The couple also had a daughter named EV. EV shows the young life and social life using her relationship with her boyfriend, Pilgrim.
Heck is a young humane man who has a humble background. He married Mei Mei and had one daughter called EV. When Heck was about to join a medical school, he flirted with life. Together with a friend from a rich family, he set out for kayaking off the coast. The two pals studied together at a prep school. Tragedy struck, and Heck died. Mei Mei became widowed and EV a fatherless child. Through the death of Heck, the lives of the two women take an about turn. Heck symbolizes the snapped dream and perhaps a good life for women, but fate has it differently. The story part of Heck is important since it sets the basis for the later chapters of the book.
EV, the daughter of Heck, is a classical example of transformation from an old generation to the present world. She befriended Carole, who was the first girl to be admitted to Godde School. EV’s sexual initiation shows the changing social life. She acts as a symbol of change because she moves to New York, just as Goode’s transformation reaches peak too. In the book, it is clear that there is desperation of daughters without father.
Perhaps one person who suffers the effects of change is Goddard ‘God’ Byrd. Byrd was a head-teacher of a school that did not admit girls. He was a perfect example of a male chauvinist. In his dramatic life, he went into an affair with Mei Mei and lived together with her daughter EV. The dwindling of his stubbornness to allow girls to Goode School is explicitly shown when Carole Faust became the first girl to be admitted. It is not surprisingly, since the elder people usually have stable and solid minds and are resistant to change. The continued resistance of ‘God’ to women creates a lot of irrelevance from the 1960s to 2005, a mirror reflection of changing social life.
The book focuses on gender inequality. Leaving in a society of male chauvinistic dominance becomes a challenge to thrive of women. Girls received discrimination in the later years. This can be seen by the denial of admission of girls to Goode School. The clerical error, which landed Carole Faust in the school, became a historic moment. In this case, Goddard the head-teacher represents other male chauvinists.
The author exquisitely exposed the test and shame of morals in the changing society. Sexual practices are a key moral issue that the book focuses on. Mei Mei slept with her daughter’s boyfriend, Pilgrim. The difference in ages and generation shows how the changing society is vulnerable. The failure of both the new generation and the old one leads to collapse of moral standards. Through the use of Father Reiss, the author exposes the shortcomings of religion as regards to sexual practices challenges. Reiss resigned after being found in a messy scenario with pants down. The ironical use of the nickname ‘God’ for the head-teacher Mr. Goddard also symbolizes the contrast between the virtues and values of religion in comparison to the expectations from the leaders.
Mei Mei got widowed early in her married life. She faced the challenge of rearing the child alone as a single parent. Mei Mei went into an affair with Goddard Byrd, who was the head-teacher of Godde School. Using her character, Cooke brings out the vulnerability of women and the transition from one generation to another and the moral problems. Mei Mei exclaimed that she had grown up a greedy and lusty girl. Her denial of changing ways of things results in haunting life after.
The revolution of women runs through the book. In my view, there are different forms and ways of transforming to the changing times. Carole is an excellent example of a girl’s full transformation to the new world. Mei Mei represents the struggling persons swept or pressed by the revolution of women. She becomes a subject of the old social life through marrying Byrd, and she faces challenges rearing a fatherless daughter. Unlike Carole, EV is not perfectly empowered. She asks questions that show paradox to the theme. While she watched her mother wax her eyebrows, she asks whether they hurt.
The revolutionary phase of life does not only need dynamic people, but it also needs collective support from everyone. Revolution should not be viewed as a malicious tool against one gender. At the same time, some morals should be preserved and upheld in the changing times.