Why Jeannine is the “smart” one
At first glance, Jeannine doesn’t seem to be very bright. She’s simple. She spends her days tidying the apartment, caring for her cat (and Cal), and then goes to work at the library. The Depression leaves her with little money, but she dresses with as much style she can afford. Her head is full of stories about things from mermaids to murder mysteries- alternate, fantastical realities to liven her otherwise mundane life. The biggest aspirations in her life are to get married (to someone, anyone) and have children. But, Jael says Jeannine “is potentially the most intelligent of [them] all” (162). Jeannine doesn’t argue with what she’s told to do and how she’s told to act. She always listens to what the men have to say. She knows it’s just easier to accept what they tell her; even if she does argue, they’re just going to tell her to shut up and that she’s just a dumb girl (or bitch, depending on the situation) anyways. Cal’s arguing and whining (mostly whining) is a prime example of life being easier if you agree. It’s just easier to save her breath. Because of this, many people underestimate Jeannine. They don’t realize that just because she doesn’t say anything, doesn’t mean she has nothing to say.
Going back to her day-to-day life, Jeannine spends most of the day cleaning. “She bends and bends,” (106). Although the initial reading of this line suggests she is bending to pick things up and clean. But Jeannine bends more than that; she bends to Cal’s every whim, to her family’s, and to society’s. Toward the end of the novel, we can see she’s had enough bending. Joanna says that Jeannine sleeps in late, doesn’t clean until it really bothers her, and even plays with her food. Jeannine is more than accepting, downright eager, when Jael asks her about join the war against men. She bent so much that she finally snapped. She got sick of the easy way out and is reclaiming her life back.
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