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When I Was Miss Dow NOTES.pdf
When I Was Miss Dow NOTES.pdf

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University of Toronto St. George
Mike Johnstone

Dorman, “When I Was Miss Dow” Reading Notes - told from a nonhuman point of view - the point of view “functions as a powerful lens for perceiving the every-day human experience of gender, specifically the estrangement from self inherent in a traditional feminine role” - the aliens are of one sex and only have one brain lobe - they live in “glass bridges” or “crystal palaces” - they carry out similar activities as humans - one radical difference: they are all eventually put into the “cell bank” and reborn - humans encounter them first to explore, but later to study - the humans seem to act as colonizers; the aliens work for them and try to blend in - the main character is focused in its studies but is told to take on the face of a human in order to earn money - DrArnold Proctor is studying “kootas”, the racing dogs that the aliens breed - the alien takes on the form of Martha Dow to work for Dr Proctor - “a culture which sends out scientific parties that are 90 percent of one sex, when their species provides them with two”—this seems absurd to Miss Dow - human work is boring to her - “less light, and the truth becomes more evident” - the koota is more pure than them; she retains a single shape - the koota is found to have a defect and therefore is useless—everything is working towards an end goal - Miss Dow finds that there is a limit to how much truth she can examine; and the more she examines it, the more unhappy she becomes - truth does not equal happiness - she finds that being a human, being two halves rather than a whole, is disturbing - “Yes, I’m okay for the shape I’m in”—she’s all right for a woman; to be a woman is to experience things like that; to be herself would be much better - she finds out that Dr Proctor believes her to be a human—again changes her sense of identity - being with him makes her feel safe—are humans inherently just a half of a whole? (two brain lobes) - “‘put out the light’, for we may find some more truth” - humans are much less open than the aliens, who live in glass their whole lives - “old bachelor”—he won’t be dedicated to any woman - “If he doesn’t see me, then am I here?”—she has become just a half of a whole, and her existence (as a woman?) relies entirely onArnie - she used to be that passionate about her work, but becoming a woman has changed that for her - she wants to be herself and not have to conform (both to the shape of the human and the role of a woman) but she finds herself also craving it - the Warden and the Uncle use her (representative of role as a woman) - they wanted to use her as a sex tool, and yet she craves love - the line between herself and her human line is blurred; she cannot distinguish her people from humans anymore - the extra lobe is crucial for truly experiencing feelings, experiencing what it is to be humans - so humans are always divided? - her particles will become damaged if she holds on to the female form too long - she says she will hold it forever - she is Martha Dow now, and everything that comes with that - she’s never had to balance before, but humans are constantly having to balance - even if free form she no longer feels herself - part of Martha’s pattern may be permanently imprinted on her; and she likes this, despite its imperfections - Arnie is like her original self, and she hates that because she had to give it up to be with him - women have to give up a part of themselves in relationships - Terrans have tragedy: the aliens do not know this - tragedy is essential to human existence - part of the balance - is it the duality of humanity that causes tragedy? - “if he doesn’t see me as he dies, will I be here?”—her personality and sense of self depend entirely onArnie - after he dies she doesn’t care about her duties; she stays with him even though she should leave - she has gone complete
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