The Pregnant Body and Utopian Social Organization in Meridel Le Sueur’s The Girl

Vanessa Osborne, University of Southern California
Vol. 35, No. 2 (Fall 2016), 395-411

This paper examines how Communist Party writer Meridel Le Sueur brings together personal narrative and political ideology as a way of writing the woman’s body and experiences into Depression-era class struggle. Le Sueur’s novel The Girl, written during the 1930s but not published until its 1978 rediscovery by feminists’ recovery efforts, offers an antidote to capitalism’s pervasive commodity fetishism and reification. The novel imagines an alternative social model: an interdependent society patterned on the pregnant woman’s body. By using allegory to connect the individual story of one woman to the larger economic and social problems facing working-class people during the Depression, Le Sueur’s novel demonstrates that the experiences of an individual can embody, communicate, and educate readers about stark political and economic realities. Le Sueur attends to the bodies, hungers, desires, and shared experiences of working-class women in order to counter the individualism and competition fostered by Depression-era society. Reading the novel allegorically, this paper proposes that Le Sueur offers a new way to educate and inspire a working class readership to support the Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA) cause—one that goes beyond didactic summaries of Marxist texts or the assumption that members of the working-class can intuit Marxist ideas by interpreting their conditions of oppression.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]