By Chet Yarbrough
Fates and Furies
By: Lauren Groff
Narrated by Will Damron, Julia Whelan
Lauren Groff (American novelist.)
“Fates and Furies” shows how men are not from Mars, and women are not from Venus. Lauren Groff shows how “Adams Rib” is a joke played on women by men who have a false sense of gender superiority.
Groff artfully illustrates how men and women are equal. They are equal in every respect, but particularly Groff shows how they are equal in drive, ambition, ability, and fallibility.
Groff’s artistry is in the beauty and cogency of her writing. She tells the story of a husband and wife’s lives from cradle to adulthood.
Groff shows how little difference there is between the sexes when new life is hatched but not borne by parents. (This is not to say parents are not important but parents and culture often fail children by training them to be unequal–for example–the picture of marriage shown above.) The first half of her book is told from a husband’s view of himself in the world; the second half is told from a wife’s view of herself in the world.
Every reader/listener will draw their own conclusion about Groff’s view of sexual equality. Her story may not be your story, but it will give every person pause, if not enlightenment.
Power plays a role in every human’s life. Gender is immaterial. Groff shows how a man and woman exercise power between each other and among family, friends, and acquaintances.
Groff focuses attention on one couple, a husband and wife, and their personal relationship. Groff reflects on each of their histories to explain, in part, how they became who they are.
The couple, and outsiders of the couple’s relationship, have little understanding of who they are or why they act as they do.
The beauty of Groff’s writing adds dimension to the truth that men and women are equal. Lancelot (aka Lotto) Satterwhite and Mathilde Yoder (Lotto’s wife) are creative geniuses. One might argue both have character flaws, as all humans do, but that is not the story.
Lotto is a narcissist who thinks the world revolves around him. Mathilde is a narcissist who lets Lotto think the world revolves around him. Both are trapped in their own delusions.
From delusion to reality, Groff shows how deep love can be, even between two narcissists.
Lotto and Mathilde merry, graduate from Vasser (a liberal arts college in New York) and begin their lives together. Lotto is a struggling actor and Mathilde works for an art gallery. In their early years of marriage, Mathilde works to make money they need to keep their household together. Groff changes that condition when Lotto abandons acting to become a playwright. In that change, Groff reveals more of Lotto’s life in flashbacks.
Lotto’s life experience leads him to fame and, to a degree, fortune. In Lotto’s telling-that success is different from the telling given by Mathilde in the second half of Groff’s book.
Lotto and Mathilde are very much alike, aside from gender. Both are abandoned by their parents. Both learn how to cope with life alone. Each draw on their experience as children to learn how to survive in a world driven by money, power, and prestige.
After Lotto’s death, Groff uses flash backs to explain Mathilde’s childhood. In that telling, Mathilde is shown to be an equal to Lotto. Lotto’s mother, who dislikes Mathilde, disowns Lotto from a family fortune. Lotto’s mother plans to rescind the disownment upon her death. As fate (luck) would have it, Lotto’s mother dies before Lotto’s passing. Mathilde inherits her husband’s estate.
The hardship of Lotto’s and Mathilde’s childhoods prepares them to use their gifts of intelligence and sex to survive.
Groff shows little difference in their drive, ambition, and ability to make their way in the world. None of that makes any difference with life’s luck (or, if you wish, fate). That is one of many points Groff makes in “Fates and Furies”. Life is a matter of fate (luck), and fury.
Groff shows how men and women are equal. They have different strengths but equal drive, ambition, ability, and fallibility.
The missing ingredients are equal pay for equal work, self-understanding, and public acceptance.