Finding One's Self in Jane Smiley’s Moo
Finding one's self is not without turmoil. This does not pertain to only the young. It takes some people well into old age before they reach the level of ‘knowing’ who they are. An essential element of this maturation is turbulence. Periodic turbulence gives an individual the opportunity to rise above previous deficiencies of personality and provides levels of self-awareness. There are many ways that people face maturation, and many more ways in which they do or don’t face their ‘demons’.
Let’s look at some of the characters in Jane Smiley’s novel, Moo. At Moo University there are plenty of examples of turmoil and growth process’. One of the ...view middle of the document...
Other people find through turmoil that it is time to release the myths with which they have surrounded themselves. Chairman X and his lifelong companion, Beth, have made a life for themselves that does not fit into the myth they created many years before. They had never married because they originally believed that they must not "in order to subvert the capitalist tradition of marriage as a property relationship and the consequent intrusion of the corporation into private life." (Smiley, 337). As Beth raises their daughters she begins pull away from this view, she begins to realize that she needs more than what "he defined as her needs" (Smiley, 277), she comes to her own awareness of who she is.
It takes X a bit longer. While maturation stares him boldly in the face, X fights with all his will to hold on to the myth of who he once was. "He couldn’t envision what he did know, but he could see perfectly what he had never known" (Smiley, 277) and this view was a diversion from the knowing the person that he was, the person that Beth saw him as. Chairman X tumbles through turmoil before landing in a heap at the bottom of his soul. From this view he comes to the conclusion that he is this family man of whom he was so afraid. He arranges a surprise wedding with his children and he and Beth are married.
Then there are the dreamers, those people who have held on to their dreams so tightly that when the dream bites them in the rear they don’t even realize that they’ve been bitten. Marly Hellmich has locked herself up in her dreams for so long that it takes her several bites before she realizes that something is not right. Marly has "cast her lot with faith" and forgotten about "liberal education" (Smiley, 26), she worked hard and accepted "the task set by Jesus" (Smiley, 26). But Marly’s dream was to marry well and finally quit her job at the University cafeteria. When Nils proposes to Marly, she knows she does not love him, but she accepts his proposal because getting out of the cafeteria is her dream and this man can make it happen.
It takes a while for Marly to realize that Nils’ dreams do not fit with her own. She had believed that all her dreams were coming true, through Nils. But finally she has to face the truth that the dreams and beliefs she had held onto for so long are all wrong. With her new status as Nils’ fiancee, Marly finds she does not ‘fit’ anywhere anymore. Her friends at church "had pushed her out of that slot and into another one" (Smiley, 361). Marly doesn’t ‘fit’ into her dreams. When she climbs aboard the truck that will take her away from the mess her life had become, Travis asks her, "Been waiting long?" (Smiley, 362). Marly doesn’t even realize how long she has been waiting --...