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A Clod of Wayward Marl

Fans of De Marinis's earlier works will recognize bits and pieces of Guido Tarkenen, the central character of "A Clod of Wayward Marl"--Italian on his mother's side, Finnish on his father's, with a fondness for drink and a tendency toward bad trouble with women, he could be a grow-up cousin to Trygve Napoli, the protagonist of "The Year of the Zinc Penny," or to the adult heroes of any number of his short stories see his superb collection "Borrowed Hearts".

Guido's a writer of "slasher trash" novels, temporarily teaching writing at La Siberia U.

There's plenty of plot here, but the real pleasure of the book is De Marinis's gleeful genre-bending in his creation of Guido's demented little world--it's a little bit hardboiled P. The book contains the best description of a virtual reality trip I've read anywhere, and it's funny to boot. If there were any justice De Marinis would be one of the best-known writers in America, and if enough people sit up and notice this one, maybe he will be.

His characters are well constructed, the dialogue snaps, but more than anything his control of the narrator and, in turn, the language makes the book a great read. Hero is a girl wholly constructed by family and society, without one spark of individual will.

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It is her father who controls her present life and her future. Only when Hero dies and is reborn, she finds her tongue for the first time, a tongue which Beatrice has never lost. Beatrice is a woman who openly defies male subjection. She rebels against the unequal status of women in renaissance society. O that I were a man! I would eat his heart in the market-place. When Hero has been humiliated and accused of violating her chastity, Beatrice explodes with fury at Claudio for mistreating her cousin.

Here, she means that if she were a man, she could take vengeance on the man that slandered her cousin. But she is a woman, so she cannot defend her in her honour whilst a man can by fighting in a duel or a battle. Beatrice is a very strong woman in the sense that she is extraordinarily independent and courageous for her time.

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To her, independence is of extreme importance. She seems confident that she does not want to submit to marriage, in order to obtain her self-sufficiency. It is clear that Beatrice is very much aware of the existing social pressure and the expectance of certain traditional behaviour of male and female individuals. But she refuses to submit to it. Her way of thinking quite resembles the way most women in our present society think about these matters.

Nowadays, women are confident that they are equal to the male gender. We also chose who we fall in love with and marry for ourselves, no matter what our parents might think. Although, in some countries, like Morocco, women are still being seen as unequal to men. As I mentioned, Beatrice refuses to marry because she want to preserve her independency. She is unwilling to eschew her liberty and submit to the will of a controlling husband. Afterwards, her uncle simply replies that if she does not like men with a beard that she should chose a husband without one.

Dress him in my apparel, and make him my waiting gentlewoman? She means that there is no man that would be a perfect match for her. He that is less than a man is not manly enough to satisfy her desires, and he that has a beard is not youthful enough for her.

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But this riddle is not particular to Beatrice. In Renaissance literature and culture, particularly in Shakespeare, youths on the cusp of manhood are often the most coveted objects of sexual desire. Also, when Beatrice jokes that she would dress up a beardless youth as a woman, there is a hidden double meaning in there. The beardless adolescent had a special, youthful allure that provoked the desires of both men and women at those times. A woman might be strong and independent, still she will always keep on feeling a desire to be loved.

A Clod of Wayward Marl

People are not made to spend their lives alone. We will always want to share our happiness with somebody else, who loves and cherishes us. Single independent women hardly ever admit to being lonely, but deep down they are. It is simply human.


What Beatrice really wants is a finding a partner who loves her and treats her as his equal. She is not entirely opposed to marriage, as long as it is based on mutual love, respect and equality. In de film version of the play, this very same song is sung by Beatrice herself at the very beginning. The song is actually the key to the whole play. It describes her feelings about Signior Benedick. Men always leave, as she describes it they have one foot in sea and one on shore, they are never constant to one thing.

This song gets across the message of the entire play and it proves to us that Shakespeare definitely understood women very well. However, the element of merriment in this conflict disrupts traditional assumptions about the proper behaviour of young men and women: Benedick and Beatrice —Beatrice in particulary —via their verbal wit seem connected to a source of energy that cannot be fully contained by social forms. This again shows that Beatrice is not a typical renaissance girl.

She is not willing to be subdued by the male expectations of society. She is not afraid to speak freely and tell her male companions what she thinks about them.

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