Susan Minot, the person behind the masterpiece short story Lust, creates and brings out the main character of the story in a unique manner. The protagonist’s relationship with the other characters in the story brings it out her uniqueness as opposed to her physical appearance.
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Through her actions and feelings, the audience sees her real part in the story. Lust’s narrator does not have a name, but she is in her teenage years going to a religious academy that is located away from her home. The narrator comes out as a promiscuous person right from the beginning of the story when she says, “Leo was from a long time ago, the first one I ever saw nude” (Minot 3). Her relationships seem to be mostly with boys as opposed to associating with girls of her age.
She is also sexually active as she confesses, “he kisses my palm and then directs my hand to his fly” (Minot 6). Her sexual escapades with different boys set the plot of the story. Even without the name of the main character, the audience can tell how she behaves and relates with others, which brings out the imbalance of power that exists between men and women particularly when it comes to sex. The powerful sexual desire that men in this story have completely overcomes the narrator.
Minot uses both the first and second person throughout the story whereby in some instances she uses “I” as she talks about her life experiences. For instance, she says, “I had tasted Bruce’s tongue” (Minot 3), while in others she uses “you”, which stands for all women in general; fro instance, she posits, “You begin to feel like a piece of pounded veal” (Minot 16).
The main character portrays behaviors of being overtly promiscuous such that in one instance, she admits that sleeping around was a normal thing that did not worry her at all. However, she discloses her fears of the promiscuous life by confessing, “All the next day, you’d be in a total fog, delirious, absent-minded, crossing the stress and nearly getting run over” (Minot 10).
She goes on to state that for a boy sleeping with many girls was a good thing whilst for a girl it was an ominous thing to sleep around. This aspect shows that despite portraying a “do not care” attitude, at times she knew what she was doing was wrong and it was eating her from the inside. However, it is only at the end of the story that the narrator brings out her fears and worries.
The narrator brings about the emotional detachment the main character has with authority figures; for instance, her parents. It is very easy for the audience to see there is no emotional bond that exists between her and her parents. She says, “My parents had no idea…parents never really know what’s going on, especially when you’re away at school most of the time” (Minot 5).
This assertion shows that her parents took her to a far away boarding school so that they would not have to deal with the issues that their teenage daughter was going through. The mentality of knowing her family is not anywhere near allows her to have all the freedom she wants in order to engage in whatever she likes.
Another character who was propagating the main character’s promiscuous behavior according to the narrator was the school doctor. He was giving students the emergency pill without asking any relevant questions as the narrator notes, “The joke was that the school doctor gave out the pill like aspirin” (Minot 8).
The main character reveals to the audience that most girls in the school used the pill, which would prevent them from getting pregnant once they engaged in unprotected sexual escapades. She could take the pills in the morning just before they went to the school chapel.
The narrator shows that even if she wanted to stop her promiscuity, she could not get enough support to advice her and stand with her, particularly her parents. The housemother, Mrs. Gunther, made a point of advising them on how to find true love as she had fallen for the only boyfriend she had, Mr. Gunther, at eighteen years old, which ended in a marriage. However, the girls ignored all her advice and they would go about their partying, drinking, and having sex.
Minot also shows that the main character was not confident even though she exuded a different personality. She felt weak with the men she associated with and so she was always obligated to say yes to sexual advances whenever they asked for it.
She admits, “So if you flirted, you had to be prepared to go through with it” (Minot 9). She later states how the boys would get angry if girl refused to give into sex advances. Therefore, Minot brings out the main character as someone who had a low self-esteem, which she masked with partying, drinking, and even taking drugs.
She wanted to portray a personality that was extremely social, outgoing, and fun to be around while it was the exact opposite as she divulges, “After sex, you curl up like a shrimp, something deep inside you ruined, slammed in a place that sickens at slamming…”(Minot 16). At one instance where she was with Tim, she stripped naked and lay on the rug after he had gone to close the door.
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From the entire story, the audience can see that the main character’s lustful behavior stands out courtesy of how she associates with other secondary characters in the story. Emotional dependence comes into view by the way the narrator lacks any qualms with sleeping around especially since she is a girl. Girls and women in general grow up in a society that nurtures the precept that it is very wrong to sleep around as compared to boys and men who emerge as macho by perpetuating the same.
The narrator also shows the amount of peer pressure that young people face and end up engaging in sex, alcohol, and even drugs. This aspect comes out clearly by how almost every girl in the school would take the birth control pill and also how the narrator could not say no to sex; she concedes, “I thought the worst thing anyone could call you was a cock-teaser”(Minot 9).
Minot has done a tremendous job by enlightening the audience on the challenges that young people, especially at their teenage years, face due to peer pressure to involve themselves in sex, alcohol, and other drugs. She also shows how girls give in to sexual advances easily to boys. Girls learn a little too late that sex never leads to love and as the narrator posits, “you open your legs but can’t, or don’t dare anymore, to open your heart” (Minot 17).
Minot, Susan. Lust & other stories, New York: Vintage Books, 1989. Print.