Although the first section of the book touched on this briefly, I felt like this section elaborated more on the idea of identity as a social construct. When Molly is first introduced to the labels of “bastard” or “Jew” in section one she doesn’t actually know what they mean, just that the people around her treat them as something bad. This made me curious about the actual origin of one of Molly’s labels, the word bastard.The Oxford English Dictionary defines bastard as “one begotten and born out of wedlock; an illegitimate or natural child.” The word has origins in French from the phrase “fils de bast” or ‘pack-saddle child.’ A pack saddle referred to the beds used in inns, hence the idea that a bastard was the child of a pack-saddle bed rather than a marriage-bed.
At the beginning of this section we see her chastised by Carrie for using the “colored” bathroom, and again that she has no idea why that would be a bad thing. Molly puts it aptly herself: “I don’t care what the hell I am. And I ain’t staying away from people because they look different” (53). This theme shows up repeatedly through Molly’s childhood, with her deciding to throw off the social context behind a label and accept an action for what it is. When Leroy asks her if she thinks he’s queer, her response is “I think you are Leroy Denman, that’s what I think. I don’t give a flying fuck what you do, you’re still Leroy. It’s kinda cool that Craig likes you…I mean, Leroy, at least he cares about you. That’s got to count for something now, doesn’t it?” (60). This mirrors her response to the other problems that have cropped up in her life regarding negative stereotypes or prejudices, like the revelation that she’s a bastard: “So what, so what I’m a bastard. I don’t care” (8). In all of these situations Molly approaches these larger issues at a fairly young age and with a child-like view of the world, but ignoring the negative stereotypes that may come with an identity doesn’t protect her from the consequences of being associated with it. This is made apparent when Molly loses her scholarship for “moral reasons” at the end of the section.
- Is Molly’s attitude towards identities and prejudice sustainable? How could ignoring the social stigmas and nuances behind certain identities also be harmful?
The chapter ends on a very bitter note, and Molly herself says she’s lost her innocence. Does this mark the end to Molly’s view of the world, as she’s forced to adapt to survive, or will she continue to fight expectations and ignore consequences?