Dorothy Allison

Dorothy Allison is known for her fiction writing, and while the selection included in Available Means is excerpted from her memoir, Two or Three Things I Know for Sure, the fictional story-telling voice comes through strongly. Even telling her own life's tale, she uses the techniques of the fiction writer. Her rhetoric is a rhetoric of story, and carries more emotional power because of it.

Not that the subject matter requires anything additional to create an emotional response in the reader, but her mastery over words allows her to guide the reader to specific reactions rather than a more general horror at the idea of a grown man raping a child. Allison does not want sympathy for herself. She does not want explanations or theories.
All the things I can say about sexual abuse-about rape-none of them are reasons. The words do not explain. Explanations almost drove me crazy, other people's explanations and my own. Explanations, justifications, and theories. I've got my own theory. My theory is that rape goes on happening all the time. My theory is that everything said about that act is assumed to say something about me, as if that thing I never wanted to happen and did not know how to stop is the only thing that can be said about my life. My theory is that talking about it makes a difference-being a woman who can stand up anywhere and say, I was five and the man was big. (441)
Here, Allison touches on the theme of women speaking, as Cixous and others have also. The power of a woman speaking of the unspeakable, asserting the words of her body in a public forum. Transgressing. Radical.

I love Allison's use of language. She turns phrases and draws metaphors with a delicate touch and a hammer blow. She has written her way out of the stories she did not want to live. Stories that she saw acted out by her female relatives one after another, breaking them, destroying them. "Women lose their lives not knowing that they can do something different. Men eat themselves up believing they have to be the thing they have been made" (449). Without the imagination that created so many different ways to be, she might not have made it out of that trap. She imagined other ways to be. And, in that line, Allison also touches on the way that societal gender constructs hurt men as much as women.

It seems as if the list of people the patriarchy hurts is always growing. Who does it help? Who defends it? Why? If the ways that women and men are split against each other, the way that women are made into the 'Other' and divisions multiply from there outward, share a single cause, then why can't it be changed? Inertia? Or the desire to deny the truth?

"I can tell you anything. All you have to believe is the truth" (453).

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