Here's a paper I wrote for my Critical Thinking class(English 1-B) when I took it over the summer intermission. I received 100% on this essay, as I did on each essay and on my final grade in the class....Mwahaha. I am not sure if this was my final draft of this essay, or not, but I think it was...So whatever.
Something that Needs Nothing, Essay #1
In the short story, "Something that Needs Nothing" by Miranda July, how does the narrator transform from a weak character to a strong one? What is the significance of her not having a name? How does Pip strengthen her? How does Pip help the narrator to grow? By the end of the story, is the narrator a positive feminist role model or a negative one? These are the questions that plagued me as I read the story. I have spent a lot of time reading "Something that Needs Nothing" and attempting to come up with my own thoughts regarding the complex characters presented in this story. The answers to these questions have brought a new found understanding of a tragic love story about growth and finding strength in one's self.
As the story begins, our narrator, a youth recently blossomed into womanhood, is weak and dependant. Of all the characters, only she goes unnamed, though she does go by a few aliases. I believe this fact was not unintentional. July left the narrator unnamed as a way of reinforcing her weakness and dependence. Without others, Pip in particular, she would be nothing, a nameless, background figure with no real life of her own. This is how I feel about the narrator and how I feel she regards herself as well. She is dependant, but much more so than a wife or child, almost pathetically so. This may be a testament to her own childhood, a situation touched lightly upon in the story only with the fact that her parents would not let her go with Pip. Perhaps she learned dependence from her parents and so she latched upon her first love, Pip. However, throughout the entirety of the story, the narrator blossoms further, gaining a sense of her true self and strength of character that she lacked in the beginning of the story. This was due largely in part by her need to survive and, alienated from Pip, she was forced to make her own decisions. She became her own pillar, albeit a wobbly one. I find a good example of her growth to be when she renamed herself as Gwen, the name that she had given to the first post she had secured to the floor earlier in the story. This renaming is an allusion to how she, herself, now had to stand on her own.
The character of Pip is a very interesting one. She is a person plagued by her own personal demons and, because of those issues, she holds back the narrator. It seems as though she despises the narrator, perhaps disgusted by her weakness and dependency. This may be why Pip does not find the narrator to be sexually attractive, instead going for other, stronger characters like Tammy and Kate. Pip knew that she could never be content with having the narrator and so she moves on, leaving the narrator to lie in the road as she and Kate drive off to a new life. I should hate Pip for that, but I cannot. In a way, Pip's actions, her alienation, are what help the narrator to grow. By leaving the narrator on her own, she learns to survive and take care of herself. I believe that Pip teaches the narrator independence and forces her to take matters into her own hands.
Through her separation with Pip, the narrator is no longer able to rely on anyone but herself. She is forced to come up with her own ideas on how to pay the rent, to make her own decisions when it comes to her life. Her separation forced her to become independent, a person intent on doing what needs be done in order to survive. This becomes evident when she chooses to work at Mr. Peeps. She did not enjoy the job, but the pay was good and she was able to withstand her dislike in order to survive. Let's face it, most people do not like their jobs, but they do what they must in order to pay the bills and live a semi-comfortable life. This is a concession that comes with being an adult. The fact that the narrator is willing to do this shows that she has grown up and become an independent woman. I believe that Pip, as a foil and as an ideal, forces the narrator to this conclusion.
Towards the end of the story, the narrator is forced to rely on Pip once
more. Worried about leaving her work alone, due to a stalker, she calls Pip in order to get a ride home. The fact that she, now independent, is able to rely on Pip once more shows that she has grown as a person. Even Pip notices the change in the narrator and begins to feel a sexual attraction that was not there when they were a couple. Of course, Pip, being a predominately masculine character despite being a female, does not want to share the narrator with the men at Mr. Peeps. Pip enjoys the new, assertive narrator, but she does not like what the narrator is forced to do in order to keep her independence. It is a strange irony that is not really addressed as the story ends soon after this confrontation. However, I would like to believe that the narrator maintained her independence and did not come to rely on Pip too often. If she were to become a dependant once more, the story would have had little point as I see it.
Now, many people would think that the narrator is a bad role model for women, an anti-feminist that compromises her dignity in order to get by. If the story is taken at face value, they would probably be correct. The narrator, distraught and seeking money to live on, does decide to work for a peep show and, in some views, does degrade herself to men in order to survive. Some would say that she is no more than a prostitute, a scum or a cultural poison, but what would they do in her shoes? The narrator was not an educated woman. She had no real skills, nor the ability to reasonably acquire them. At this point in her life, she had very few options. However, in order to survive, she overcame. She persevered and did what was necessary in order to live her life. I believe that makes her a strong character, an empowered woman who, despite her choice in career, is a good role model to the feminist movement. Some would call her actions degrading, but does she feel that way? It was her choice to work at Mr. Peeps. It was her choice to go out and become independent instead of running home or wallowing in self pity. Her decisions may not be within the accepted social norm, but she did what she had to do in order to live her life the way she chooses. Is this not an ideal to be commended? I believe it is.
This is harsh contrast to how she was with Pip. While dependent on Pip, the narrator did not make her own decisions. She merely followed along, trailing behind a character who made all of her decisions for her. From a feminist point of view, it almost seems as though Pip were the oppressive male figure, dominating the life of the feminine narrator. The early portrait of the narrator, as the meek, submissive female, is the true anti-feminist ideal. Once the narrator breaks free of the man in her life, Pip, she is free to become a true feminist, a free and independent woman.
Too often in this time of contemporary change, a feminist is thought of as a woman who hates the oppressive rule of man. They are thought of as women who are free from the world created by men, the masters of their own destinies. With this as a definition, the prime feminist role in "Something that Needs Nothing" would be Pip. She rejects the world of men, not even allowing men to look at her in a sexual manner. However, in her hatred of men, Pip becomes a man herself, taking on many aspects primarily thought of as male. The narrator, who began the story as weak and submission, represented many feminine qualities that would be considered anti-feminine. However, as the story unfolds, through the cauldron of strife, her qualities are tempered and she gains a strength and empowerment that is entirely feminine. On the outside she seems the very anathema of the feminist ideal, but inside, her thoughts and feelings convey the feminist agenda quite dramatically.
In short, I feel that the narrator is a strong character who overcame adversity in order to persevere. Despite working in a peep show and "degrading" herself to men and women alike, I find her to be a character to be respected. Are there other paths that she could have taken? Yes. Is there a better path? Who can say what is better? Without knowing more than Miranda July has presented to us, I can not say if the narrator had other, better options. I do know that she did what she had to do and blossomed from a weak, entirely dependant character into a strong, independent individual. By the end of the story, I felt that the narrator deserved her name, whichever one she feels like using.