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Moore, Ward – “Lot” (1953)

06/18/2013

… Speaking of festering with misogyny. “Lot” is a story of the nuclear end of American society, a supposed classic of the field, which mostly takes the form of a “rational” man yelling at his “irrational” wife and children while stuck in traffic fleeing the remains of Los Angeles. This is why people can’t take this stupid genre seriously.

Just as Lot’s wife made the fatal mistake of looking back at Sodom and Gomorrah, Mrs. Jimmon is unable to look forward past the end of civilization to “the outrageous logic which It brought in its train”. She consistently fails to understand the fundamental shift they have undergone, whines at her husband about finding a decent hotel to stay in, is tied to useless material things, has a slow reaction time (which Mr. Jimmon supposed to be a problem common to her sex), is aghast when he disregards a traffic ticket he gets for driving down the wrong side of the highway (“There is no law now but the law of survival”), drops several hints about being nostalgic about her old boyfriend, and so on. We also learn that it was her nagging that drove Mr. Jimmon to leave his job at a bank, where he was happy, and to start at an insurance firm, where he was paid more.

There are also three Jimmon children: a bratty younger son, an older son who spends the story challenging Jimmon’s authority (shades of “Wonder Child”), and a daughter, Erika, who is the most like her father, to the point that he likes to pretend the two sons were products of an affair on his wife’s part. Because of this, once Jimmon finally leaves the traffic jam behind (leaving the reader similarly relieved to have finally left the interminable discussions of traffic behind), he ditches the three “parasites” at a gas station and runs off into the wilderness with Erika, resolving to “teach her everything he knew (including the insurance business?).”

Astute readers will have noted the Adam-and-Eve setup here, and you should also be aware that this is how the daughter is first introduced: Erika came in briskly from the kitchen, her brown jodhpurs making her appear at first glance even younger than fourteen. But only at first glance; then the swell of hips and breast denied the childishness the jodhpurs seemed to accent.

Yikes. Again, as this is a “classic,” I am already aware without having read it that the sequel, “Lot’s Daughter,” opens with Jimmon and Erika having produced a child, and closes with Erika channeling her father and leaving these two “parasites” in turn. I checked and thankfully that one didn’t make it into one of these anthologies.

All in all, an uninteresting addition to the post-apocalyptic canon, and an early predecessor of the current trend toward “misogynistic-as-grittily realistic” protagonists in sf.

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3 Comments
  1. I think more than just SF has issues with misogyny in the 50s… As a “historian”, you should be able to “contextualize” works such as this one…. But, it certainly does put Judith Merrill’s pioneering stories from the same era into a broader context!

  2. Patrick Hanna permalink

    You seem to have missed the entire point to this story. It was told from the perspective of Jimmons, and he was a pig. As the sequel makes clear, he was never up to the challenge of surviving and he was most certainly not a leader. That was the point. Is misogyny not supposed to exist in fiction?

  3. I understand that Jimmons is not a sympathetic character. What point is that making? Just because the misogynistic character is not a capable survivalist doesn’t mean the story itself is not misogynistic. Unless I’m misremembering, it isn’t like the narrative gives us any hint that Mrs. Jimmons is anything other than the useless ninny he thinks she is.

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