Nurture: Comparing the J’s
There are five J’s in the book. Four of them are characters. They all are Jeannine, Joanna (character), Janet, Jael, and Joanna (author). Joanna (author) lays down commentary and characters are seemingly symbols. The major comparisons of the characters comes from when Jael brings them all together. They are all the same person from different universes. Jael brings them together by some sort of technology that can transport between their universes but not into your own future, or a past and these limitation sticks when you go someplace else, anyway it can tell the universes apart by one quantum of light. Jael “somehow” finds the “same” women (genotype) one from the future and two near each other together. Then she kind of explains why they are so different. (160-162) Even though they are the same woman, they are vastly different, this reminded me of the nature vs. nurture idea this takes it even further where all difference is nurture because by nature they are all the same, Russ could take liberties with science by explanation through parallel universes. Then I speculated on what these ensuing personalities meant.
First, you have Jeannine, who Jael refers to as the youngest. Jeannine is a seemingly stereotypical female. As in, she just wants to get married, her interests are mostly clothes and things like that, however she doesn’t seem completely on board with that way of life. Admittedly, she is averse to many of the things that Janet does. She does have moments where she would like to do things for herself, like read or her daydreams. She also seems to be the one most swayed by Jael’s beliefs, she rejects the stereotypical waiting for Cal (she doesn’t even mention his name), the mannequins that she used to admire, and almost all the things that were her “life” before. Jeannine seems to represent hope in a way. She ascribed to the patriarchal world at first but between the other worlds realized her own independence, that is why Jael said she could be the most intelligent.
Next is Joanna (character). This character gets the least information about her and her world is supposed to be reality, or nearly that. The character trait I recognized with her was when Janet first showed up she really tried to make Janet conform to the norms of her society. Jael refers to her as the Weak One, which kind of says she represents women who just accept what society has given them and don’t think it another way. To be blunt, I am unsure of why Russ gave this character her name.
Then there is Janet. She is referred to as the Strong One. She tries to peacefully understand the ways of these other cultures. Her world had the same technology Jael had, they just hid, knowing violent universes were out there. She explains that to Jeannine, and shortly to Jael. Her world is seemingly the best out of the four in my opinion. Russ intentionally did this, Janet is the ideal, is the person that Jeannine would want to be. She is the most independent, emotionally genuine person out of them. When someone does her wrong she has the correct response, and so on. There are no real wars in her world because there are large groups with ideas.
The final one is Jael. She comes from a time where there is an intense dichotomy; women and men. The other differences have been killed off in earlier wars. Her role is as an assassin, she kills people. She has claws at the ends of her fingers and false teeth to cover up sharper more dangerous ones. This was the last introduced for two reasons. One it is a connection to before, maybe look back and see all the possible places she was, the other is even in comparison to how different Whileaway was, Jael world seems even more so. It seemed to me that Jael is almost a necessary evil, she says that her world is the reason Whileaway exists, there was no plague they killed them all. This is symbolic that you cannot reach the utopia of Whileaway without Jael’s world, so things will get worse before they gets better, there will be conflict, so on and so forth.
Dennett, Daniel Clement. Kinds of Minds: Towards an Understanding of Consciousness. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1996. Print.
Russ, Joanna. The Female Man. Boston: Beacon, 1986. Print.