The Life and Loves of a She-Devil

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Categories: Mainstream
Publisher: RosettaBooks | Date published: 12/02/2002

Description


Ruth is, by her own admission, an unlucky woman. Ungainly, unattractive, unassertive, she trudges through life bowed under the weight of a loveless marriage to a brazen, cheating, indifferent man named Bobbo. Although she has patiently suffered through the small and not-so-small indignities occasioned by sharing a life with the uncaring Bobbo, as The Life and Loves of a She-Devil opens, Ruth's patience is wearing thin, and the pain and resentment she has been swallowing all these years are finally beginning to bubble over. This is a black comedy, but it is also-as black comedies tend to be-an exceedingly sad meditation on facing one's lot in life, and coming to grips with a capricious fate that lavishly rewards some while cruelly withholding from others. But more importantly, it is a scathing indictment of a society and a value system that reinforces, twenty times over, that basic, cosmic unfairness. Ruth's adversary is a petite blonde named Mary Fisher, a superficial and casually amoral woman whose chosen occupation is writing passionate, best-selling, romance novels about the nature of love. Mary has been born with everything-looks, proportions, hair, and an understanding of how best to negotiate with the world to get what she wants. Not only does the world pay constant tribute to her shallow attributes (her novels are best-sellers), but Ruth's own husband openly prefers her over his dutiful, but unglamorous wife. When Ruth finally snaps and embraces the hatred that has been welling up inside of her, she goes on a single-minded quest for the power, success and glamour that have been denied her all these years. While she's at it, she wreaks revenge on her wayward husband and his loathsome mistress. In doing so, in embracing the "She-Devil" inside of her, Ruth exposes the contradictions and hypocrisies of the superficial culture in which we live. If our culture tends to heap further rewards on those already rewarded by fate, it also sells us the largely false notion that we can shape ourselves into whatever we want to be. It is a pernicious system since it not only teaches a person to be perpetually dissatisfied with him or (especially) herself, it also suggests that the feeling of dissatisfaction is indicative of a failure of will, of morals, of money, of imagination. Ruth, grotesquely transforms herself utterly, burning down her house, overhauling her goals and her sense of purpose, and, most alarmingly, recreating the contours of her body and face through extensive plastic surgery. The result is monstrous and totally morally bankrupt, but may unfortunately be indicative of the monstrosity and bankruptcy of the image-obsessed value system in which we live.

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