-noun: a Loose Dress or A loose Woman

Emma Donoghue’s Slammerkin explores both meanings of the word in her work inspired by an 18th century newspaper story. Mary Saunders is a woman whose life is defined, imprisoned and sentenced by her addiction to fine fabrics. She traded her innocence for a shiny red ribbon, her body repeatedly for silk, satin and lace, and her happiness for fine embroidery.

After trading away her virginity, Mary decides men invading her body might as well pay the rent. She finds, after a time, that there’s an illicit liberty found in her lifestyle. There’s a freedom to live her life through her decisions, something that was denied her in socially accepted “honest living.” Ashamed of enjoying her disreputable lifestyle, her companion Miss Doll, points out that everyone sells themselves somehow. Wet nurses, respected in their trade, use their bodies for income as well. As Doll observes, “Cunny or tits, what’s the difference?”

Every decision Mary made continued her life’s downward spiral. Even after leaving London’s red light district and moving to a small village in Wales, her desire for finery still smolders. She embraces a new life as a servant for a dressmaker, where she lives surrounded yet distanced from the opulent fabrics she’s always craved. Her gift for self-destructive choices continues as she picks up her old habits and tears the home of her employer apart.

In the end it’s not destiny, fate or even choice that seals Mary’s fate. It’s an eruption of pressure, a movement without thought and a moment of weakness; in short, human nature. She saw her deepest desire being torn from her and simply reacted. Mary’s decisions wove her daily life, but it was her human nature that took it from her.

1 comment:

  1. I guess I will have to read it to know the meaning "human nature". -Angelina H.


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This work by H.E. Saunders is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.