A World Turned Upside Down

The Power, by Naomi Alderman. Little, Brown and Company

THE POWER IS THE fourth novel by Naomi Alderman, protégé of award-winning author Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid’s Tale). It centers on the discovery among the world’s women that they have a unique muscle, called a “skein,” embedded into their skin that when activated gives them an electric power that they can use to both hurt and heal.

The story is told through the narration of four protagonists—Tunde, Allie, Margot, and Roxy. Tunde is a journalist who provides the reader a global perspective on overturned social orders and flipped cultural norms through his travels. Allie gives us a glimpse into the religious order forming around women and lightning. Margot is the mayor of an undisclosed U.S. city and walks the reader through the governmental and political consequences of the power. Roxy’s involvement in organized crime affords the perspective of people leveraging a new social order for financial gain.

Alderman explores in depth the role reversals between men and women. Gender-based power structures and assumptions of the previous order do not last as more women discover the power within themselves. Alderman creates a world in which men are seen as less-than, echoing stereotypes that burden women in our world: “Men are dangerous ... Men are less intelligent, less diligent, less hard-working ... Men are more likely to suffer from diseases and they are a drain on the resources of the country.”

Does this novel depict a dystopia or a feminist utopia?

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