The Bleeding Heart by Marilyn French

The Bleeding Heart

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Marilyn French is known for her adamant position of seeking gender equality; advocating women’s rights and supporting women’s issues. Her fiction is somewhat outdated. Published in 1980, this novel takes place in the previous decade. The typical American family was not yet largely accustomed to divorce, single parent families, and women in the pursuit of a professional career. The Bleeding Heart illustrates just how difficult it once was for women to become independent, to achieve their own livelihood, and establish equality at home with their marriage partners.

This is the story of Dolores Durer. She’s been through hell with a marriage that ended tragically and is determined never to fall in love again. Everywhere she looks she envisions male domination. The story personifies the worst of both physical and mental abuse by men. And during this era, even when no visible abuse took place, male domination was always apparent.

My first reaction was that Dolores was a whiner… deeply bitter and a man-hater. Just because her husband was a monster does not mean all men are bad. Consequently, I rapidly became tired of her disparaging attitude. She was down on anything that exudes power- capitalism, business, industry, and government… but mostly marriage and men in general. While this became a little tiring, it must be noted that the impetus of her story had not yet completely unfolded. But even after I understood the source of her animosity towards men, I sometimes sided with the “enemy”- concurring with the male point of view.

About the plot… it’s a tear jerker. Dolores does manage to fall in love again. And through the process of turning a random romantic tryst into a serious love affair, she reveals the story of her life. And in return, her lover Victor, shares his story which is every bit as tragic.

In love Dolores and Victor were definitely compatible, but in philosophies and politics they were polar opposites. They both accused each other of being an idealist. She never wavered, sacrificing everything for her principles- sure that the world could be changed if every woman stood firm, demanded equality, and rejected power. She despised people with power. Victor saw power to be a good thing and believed women already had more power than they realized. “Not until you and the millions of people like you who live with their heads in the sand move into accepting power, to see it as a positive thing, not something tainted and corrupting. See power as the wonderful, liberating thing it is! As a creative tool. If people start thinking that way, solutions will bubble up, will simply emerge naturally.” And Victor argued that women furtively exercise tremendous power in passive aggressive behavior which they use in an effort to gain the upper hand and control their husbands. Victor and Dolores had some powerful arguments as they tried to find common ground in their relationship.

Perhaps it was women like the fictional Dolores or Marilyn French herself that helped change the culture of society by making women aware that they could stand up for themselves. And reading The Bleeding Heart may have helped women realize that ending a bad marriage may be better for the children than staying together in a relationship filled with tension, resentment, and anger.

The Bleeding Heart is not a “classic”, nor is it on any “best novel” list, but it is an excellent representation of feminist issues and a good example of why women’s liberation became prevalent.

Rated 5 Stars July, 2016

All contents © 2016 Lois Weisberg. All rights reserved.

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