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The Cleft: A Novel Paperback – Bargain Price, January 29, 2008
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The narrator begins with what feminists would hope to be Lessing’s version. We learn that the first inhabitants of earth are females, the Cleft watchers (later called simply Clefts) who know from birth, they will be mothers. These ancient women rely on the deep crevice named Cleft, which has red flowers that break off and flow down to the sea as a way for the females to enter the water where the moon and the sea make them fertile. Except for a yearly sacrifice of one female who is thrown into the abyss of the Cleft, they live happily until, for some unknown reason, they give birth to “Squirts” also called “Monsters” who possess a strange tube – and so men enter society.
Like other writers, such as Margaret Atwood and Angela Carter, who recreate cultural myths to offer feminist commentary on patriarchy, Lessing turns the “birds and the bees” story upside down with her tale of a maternal society that gives birth to men without mating: a true subversion of the Eve springing from Adam’s rib. However, as seen in The Golden Notebook, Lessing is never that one-sided or simplistic in her writer’s purpose. This maternal society eventually mutilates the boys and takes them to the Killing Rock in order to create a genocide that would preserve their utopian feminine world. Through this fantasy, the female reader is reminded that, as Lessing suggests, we are not so perfect either. As seen in her fantasy The Memoir of a Survivor, Lessing does not want to be the goddess for the female cause and is more interested in a world that will evolve into a culture that allows individualism and the evolution of society.
The novel is not without humor, and this is just another device Lessing uses to reveal a truth within the fantasy. As seen as a theme in one of her first novels, Martha Quest, Lessing believes cultural myths mold our identity and our roles in life; consequently, the success of The Cleft as mythopoeia relies on her creating a myth that is clearly seen as a myth, which asks the reader to make the comparisons between her fantasy and reality. The Roman narrator, after all is just a dreamer, perhaps not a historian at all, or is Lessing posing a question here: What’s the difference? No doubt, the reader will enjoy Lessing’s tongue and cheek tone while unraveling the layers of mythology.