Notley’s Alette: Men in Suits

     ” ‘just / kill me?” “Kill me & change the world?’ ” . . . ” ‘You can’t kill me;” “so join me” ‘for now’ ” (Notley 123).

     Alette identifies the Tyrant, meeting it—listening and speaking to it. Learning from it and replacing her false consciousness with truth through a process of understanding via observation. In Phenomenology and the Political, Jennifer McWeeny writes that “ . . . large numbers of women partake in false consciousness, [and so the] feminist political movement must embrace the method known as ‘consciousness raising’ . . . to effect radical social change.” (McWeeny 151). And so Alette meets with the Tyrant in his house of horrors looking and asking—cringing—and discussing the endless assortments of dioramas—the Tyrant’s hold upon mankind in all variations throughout history. Men, women, and animals of different shapes and sizes, all controlled by the Tyrant’s governments which “‘. . . sat on’ ‘waist-high pillars—’ ‘involving tiny figures’ / ‘an inch,’ ‘two inches high’ ‘some showed’ ‘men in suits & ties’ / ‘in conference’ ‘around tables'” (Notley 125). Notley identifies a relationship between the suit and tie with government; politics; power. The Tyrant is usually dressed in a black suit, as are most men—in one way or another in this epic, fashioned after the military uniform—namely the British Calvary uniform credited to Beau Brummel, who “. . . pioneered the notion that fabric, cut and silhouette were what made a gentleman’s attire . . . to emulate Greek statues of naked men . . . figure-hugging trousers and coats . . . [in] plain colours to focus attention on form and line, ushering in . . . ‘the tyranny of monochrome’” (Suitably par. 5).  Men in suits “’[own] enlightenment’ ‘all enlightenment’ (Notley 37). Alette hears the voice of the Tyrant’s legislature, “’a soft squeaking sound’ continuous’ ‘& undulant’ “ (Notley 125), and realizes that: “. . . the subordination of women . . . created by capitalism, colonialism, and world systems, the isolated nature of women’s domestic work, the separation . . . of the private realm from public life, and the glorification of women as frail dependents-all of these were a product of the shift from agriculture to industrial economies (Wilson 1496).

And so, I suppose that we, the enlightened, should never trust someone in a suit.

Works Cited

McWeeny, Jennifer. “Varieties of Consciousness under Oppression: False Consciousness, Bad Faith, Double Consciousness, and Se faire objet.” Phenomenology and the Political, edited by West Gurley, Pfeifer, 2016, pp. 149-161.

Notley, Alice. “The Descent of Alette.” Penguin. 1996.

“Suitably dressed.” The Economist, 16 Dec. 2010, Accessed 7 Nov. 2016.

Wilson, Ara. “Patriarchy: Feminist Theory.” Routledge International Encyclopedia of Women: Global Women’s Issues and Knowledge. Edited by Cheris Kramarae, Spender. 2000. pp. 1493-1497.


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