My Year of Men

So on Monday, we all bashed (rightfully) and sympathized (also rightfully. Darn, why can’t things just be black and white?) on our man “John” (or John) Ueno. However, I had some thoughts about the other male characters in the book that we didn’t discuss, namely Suzuki, Oh, and Sloan.

What we get with “John,” Kenji, and Kato are frozen characters who never seem to change or grow, despite circumstances that you hope would help them change where it’s needed. With Suzuki, Oh, and Sloan though, they undergo incredible changes and growth throughout the story.

Suzuki and Oh are changed by their encounter with the angelic Christina, from drunken pigs into… drunks who are more considerate. Ok, so it’s so much more than that. The pair of men that swears to help Jane through her pregnancy and uncover the practices and ill effects of the meat industry are not the same perpetually wasted men who would shoot out the sex organs of pin-up girls with air guns. I seriously doubt that the pair of them in the beginning of the story would have cared enough (or been sober enough) to save Jane’s tapes from the pit that Ueno would have tossed them into.

The same goes for Sloan. When we meet Sloan, he’s Casanova. He’s Mr. Suave who’s a musician and in control of things. For much of the story, he and Jane don’t have a relationship; they have sex. It’s (allegedly) monogamous, but he still seems to have no emotional stake in it. Things (and Sloan) change though, when the pregnancy is introduced into the equation. After his apparent lack of emotion about the whole thing is shown to be a desire to not pressure Jane, Casanova turns into some kind of vagabond, giggly father-to-be. I thought it was really cool to see how the pregnancy, which was initially viewed so negatively, was turned into something beautiful. Anyway, just as J. Ueno isn’t completely without redeeming qualities, so is Sloan not without his share of faults. He doesn’t discuss things with Jane after her miscarriage, and when she finds him again, he’s surrounded by female admirers. He drops all that though, and the tears come, after Jane reappears. That’s just so far from where the two characters were at the start of their relationship. The desire to be a father, the tears, those aren’t things that Casanova does. However, Sloan proves to be more than that.

On a completely different note, I thought it was interesting that here, a week after the anti-abortion protesting on campus, we’re reading about a character who seriously considers an abortion. We watch Jane go from one end of the spectrum (it’ll be a burden, I can’t possibly do it) to the other (wanting to keep the child) while (we learn) Sloan watches anxiously from the sidelines. We also see Jane’s mother’s reaction (“You throw away your baby,” she said with disgust… “Why you throw away baby if you gonna be so sad?”).

Something else I noticed is Jane’s interaction with the doctor who tends her after her miscarriage. There’s a definite difference in how Jane and the doctor view her miscarried child: Jane says “baby” and the doctor says “fetus.” When Jane asks if she was pregnant with a boy or a girl, the doctor emphasizes not what the child was, but what it “would have been.” The doctor emphasizes to Jane that she had a “nonviable fetus” or “product of conception” in her, not an actual person. Finally, there is the “D and C” procedure, a term I recognized from some prior research I’ve done. “D and C” stands for dilatation and curettage. It is a procedure where the cervix is widened and the contents of the uterus are scraped out. It is most definitely a routine procedure for miscarriages where the entire body of the child is not expelled, but it is also (in other cases, obviously) an abortion procedure. It’s sad that Jane, who had opted to keep her child, ends up needing that such a procedure.