Inspired by a mentorship with Margaret Atwood, Alderman’s The Power is a popular contemporary novel that imagines a world in which women take on the dominant societal role. They become the oppressors, leaders, and war-mongers and inflict acts of violence on less powerful men.
‘Spoiler-Free’ The Power Summary
The Power by Naomi Alderman begins with a letter. Written by Neil Adam Armon and directed toward the author. It describes The Power as not “quite a novel” but not “quite” history. What follows is an account of a matriarchal society, through diary entries, newspapers, and interviews, that was born after the women of the world discovered the ability to produce life-ending electric shocks from their fingertips.
The book focuses on several main characters, none of whom fit into the traditional role of the protagonist. They include Roxy, a girl whose childhood trauma influences her quest for revenge and understanding of the world; Tunde, a Nigerian man and the only male main character of the novel; Margot, a future US Senator who promotes the creation of camps to train girls to use their powers, and Allie (also known as Eve) who hears a voice in her head and becomes famous worldwide.
Allie, along with numerous other powerful women worldwide, promotes something known as the Cataclysm, an event they see as the only way to reshape the world permanently and ensure women are never taken advantage of again.
The Power Summary
Spoiler alert: important details of the novel are revealed below.
The novel opens with Roxy, a young girl who witnesses her mother’s murder. While fighting off the men who killed her mother, she realizes that she has incredible power. She can produce electrical shocks from her fingertips. Unable to control her new power, she kills all the men who broke into her home but cannot prevent her mother’s murder.
Her father is a crime kingpin, and he, along with his daughter, eventually gets revenge on the men (including Primrose) who murdered Roxy’s mother.
The story jumps to Tunde, a Nigerian man who experiences the power for the first time while wrestling with a young girl that he likes. She shocks him, and he’s amazed, in pain, and aroused at the same time. He begins filming the women around him using their power and selling it to news networks.
Another main character, Margot, is introduced next. She’s the mayor of an unnamed city in New England and, after gaining the power, uses it to gain an advantage on her opponent for the governorship. She wins when the citizens of the state see her as the more powerful of the two. She proposes the creation of training camps where young girls can learn to control their powers.
Allie, one of the more important characters in the novel, is introduced next. She’s been beaten and raped by her foster father throughout her youth. That is until she hears a voice in her head telling her to kill him with her power. She does so and runs away to a convent. There, she renames herself, Eve. She performs a series of miracles there, learning how to control her power to her advantage, convincing those around her that a divine being is talking to her.
Tunde visits Moldova, historically home to a great deal of human sex trafficking, where he experiences more and more women rising up and using their power to overthrow their oppressors. This includes the novel implies the wife of the president. Tatiana Moskalev, now the president of Bessapara, a part of Moldova, has become one of the most important and powerful women in the world.
After taking revenge on the men who killed her mother, Roxy meets Eve, and they become friends. Roxy goes on to invent something called Glitter, a drug that enhances women’s power and is used to train an army in Moldova.
Tunde is assaulted in India by a woman who uses her power to paralyze him, something that changes his life. Another violent incident occurs in Rozy’s life when her brother, Ricky, is raped and castrated by a group of women. She and Darrell, her younger brother, get revenge on them.
Roxy is in line to inherit her father’s crime syndicate, but her father and Darrell have other ideas. It’s also around this time that Roxy learns that it was her father who ordered the hit on her mother when she was younger.
In Bessapara, Tatiana visits Margot, Eve, and more and decides to use NorthStar women, those trained and using Glitter, to work as her private army. She demonstrates her violent tendencies, and the other characters are appalled.
Roxy visits with Darrell, who, along with her father, knocks her unconscious and removes her skein, the organ responsible for generating her power. They implant it in Darrell, and he gains her power.
Tunde has much of his research and works stolen from him by a fellow reporter, Nina. She’s even declared him dead. He flees into the forest and is saved from a cult-like group of women by Roxy. The two form a close relationship that lasts throughout the rest of the novel.
Eve works to maintain women’s dominance over men throughout this portion of the novel. She’s determined that things are never going to go back to the way they were, and she’s eventually elected as the new leader of Bessapara after she forces Tatiana to kill herself.
In the factory, after Darrell demonstrates his stolen power, the women working for him are appalled and attack him. They tear him apart in revenge.
Towards the end of the novel, Roxy and Tunde return to the factory, and she meets Eve. The latter has a plan to ensure women stay in power— a global war known as the Cataclysm. Roxy is horrified at the idea, but Eve continues, undeterred. The novel includes a text that suggests that the Cataclysm does happen and that in the future, men are seen as the submissive and gentle sex while women are the more violent and dominant.
At the end of the book, readers encounter a letter written to Neil Adam Armon from the author, Naomi Alderman, and she tells him that she enjoyed the book but found many of the details unbelievable. Having had no experience with the world before the development of the power in women, this fiction version of the author suggests that a society run by men would be kinder.
What is the main theme of The Power?
The main theme of the novel is power. It speaks on power’s ability to corrupt and lead to violence, no matter which sex it’s used by. It also draws the reader’s attention to sexual violence (which is commonplace in contemporary society when it is inflicted against women) by depicting surprising scenes of sexual assaults against men.
How does the book The Power end?
The book ends with several revelations regarding the various characters, including that Allie was abused by her stepfather as well as her stepmother. It also suggests that the Cataclysm did happen and that today, the “matriarchal world” is run by violent women.
What is the setting of The Power?
The novel jumps between a variety of settings, including Eastern Europe, the United States, Nigeria, India, Saudi Arabia, and more.
Is The Power a feminist book?
Yes, The Power is a feminist book. It shifts the gender dynamic, asking readers to reassess what they take for granted in today’s society. That is, men always take the dominant roles in relationships and government, and the true terror of sexual assault. By putting men at the receiving end of the violence, Alderman creates a clever dynamic that should inspire readers to see the real, contemporary world and the horrors of sexual assaults against women in a new light.