Naomi Alderman taps into a long history of gender imbalance as her inspiration for The Power. Her mainly female characters, now imbued with the life-changing ability to emit electric shocks from their fingertips, aspire to change the world. In some ways, for the better, and in other ways, for the worse.
Gender and Feminism
Gender is a shell game. What is a man? Whatever a woman isn’t. What is a woman? Whatever a man is not. Tap on it and it’s hollow. Look under the shells: it’s not there.
In these lines, Alderman discusses gender. Her speaker contrasts men and women, saying that a woman is what a man is not and a man is what a woman is not. But, this depiction, which is incredibly over simplistic, is “hollow.” If you look beyond the surface, there is nothing there to truly separate the two. The quote alludes to the speaker’s belief that gender roles and a general understanding of gender should be remade.
You have been taught that you are unclean, that you are not holy, that your body is impure and could never harbour the divine. You have been taught to despise everything you are and to long only to be a man. But you have been taught lies.
In these few lines, the speaker describes the way that women, throughout history, have been taught to see men as the superior sex. Women are taught to “despise everything” they are and only see being “a man” as the ideal way to live in the world. But, the idea that men are superior to women, the speaker says, is “lies.”
The shape of power is always the same: it is infinite, it is complex, it is forever branching. While it is alive like a tree, it is growing; while it contains itself, it is a multitude. Its directions are unpredictable; it obeys its own laws. No one can observe the acorn and extrapolate each vein in each leaf of the oak crown. The closer you look, the more various it becomes. However complex you think it is, it is more complex than that. Like the rivers to the ocean, like the lightning strike, it is obscene and uncontained.
The power the woman in The Power acquire, as well as the idea of power, are both prevalent parts of the novel. The ability to inflict harm, without real effort, on those around them, allows women to shift the long-lasting gender dynamic. Men are no longer inherently stronger or more dangerous. They fear shifts, and now, rather than fearing for their lives on dark streets and in their own homes, women are capable of defending themselves successfully and easily.
Alderman purposefully depicted the way that power in The Power corrupts. While many women use their new skills for good, defending themselves and others. There are those, including most of the main characters, who use their power to inflict harm for pleasure.
It follows that there are two ways for the nature and use of human power to change. One is that an order might issue from the palace, a command unto the people saying “It is thus.” But the other, the more certain, the more inevitable, is that those thousand thousand points of light should each send a new message. When the people change, the palace cannot hold.
In these lines, the speaker alludes to the ways that the fundamentals of life shift. It’s not easy to change the power dynamic, especially one that has such a long history. But, if “those thousand thousand points of light should each send a new message” and change the world by force (as occurs in The Power) the world can change.
This is the trouble with history. You can’t see what’s not there. You can look at an empty space and see that something’s missing, but there’s no way to know what it was.
In this quote about history, Alderman alludes to the way that history, in the past, is impossible to truly know. The world has played out in a specific way in her novel and the real world. Men generally take on one role, and women have generally taken on a very different role throughout history. In The Power, Alderman asks readers to reanalyze what they may see as normal or average for everyday life but shifting the balance of power. This changes one’s understanding of history, and for the characters in the novel, it completely remakes the world as they know it.
Is The Power by Naomi Alderman dystopian?
Yes, Naomi Alderman’s novel The Power is a feminist dystopian fiction novel. It begins, seemingly, as a feminist fantasy. The characters, the vast majority of which are female, acquire a new gender-dynamic-shifting power that remakes them as the aggressors worldwide.
What is the main theme of The Power?
Power and gender roles are the two main themes of the novel. Due to the acquisition of the former, gender roles shift nearly overnight. Women remake the world, ensuring that never again will they have to contend with the violence of domineering male figures in their lives.
What happens at the end of The Power by Naomi Alderman?
The novel ends with somewhat of a cliffhanger. The author included a response, from a fictionalized version of herself to the fictional author of the novel. She acknowledges the events of The Power as history and considers what the world would be like if men were the more powerful sex.
What is a good quote from The Power by Naomi Alderman?
The novel is filled with fantastic quotes on its major themes, but one of the best is: “The shape of power is always the same: it is infinite, it is complex, it is forever branching. While it is alive like a tree, it is growing; while it contains itself, it is a multitude.”