Monday, August 04, 2008

The Annotated Nexus - Page 51

51.0 After an apparently humiliating and forceful sexual advance by Dr. Kronski, Stasia stands purposely naked in front of the group. Set off by the doctor’s criticism of her “exhibition,” Stasia creates a scene by frantically fucking herself with a candle, declaring that she and Mona do things like this for lesbian shows they put on to raise rent money.

51.1 “Or haven’t you told them how we raise the rent money?”
Stasia, addressing Mona, is referring to the public display she is making by being naked and calling for a candle with which to masturbate with. The “we” implies herself and Mona, whom she turns to as she says this. “And it’s gratis this time. Usually I get paid for making an ass of myself, don’t I?” Mona tearfully begs her to stop.

Throughout Miller’s writings on Mona, he makes reference to her (his wife June) raising cash through various shades of prostitution. In some cases, there are only references to “admirers,” who appear to be willing to spend money on June simply for her attention and company.

In this scene, Mona only asks Stasia to stop talking; she never refutes her assertion. Later, on page 142, Miller makes reference to money coming from “suckers” willing to pay for Mona’s “blood.” One of them pays just to have “one of them” urinate on a sandwich.

51.2 worth fifty dollars
When Stasia finally grabs a large candle from the bureau and stuffs it into her vagina “roll[ing] her pelvis frantically,” she declares that this performance is probably worth fifty bucks.

According to this inflation calculator, $50 in 1927 would be $581 in 2007—excessively high. From the perspective of the late 1950s, when Miller wrote this, $50 would be $377. If a private masturbation performance were done today by a high-end prostitute for $200, that would equal approximately $17 in 1927. Perhaps Stasia was exaggerating; perhaps Miller was trying to make sure that the reader understood she meant a lot of money (since $17 in 1959, when Nexus was published, would sound like $10) instead of meaning she worked for peanuts.

51.3 what’s his name … pervert
Stasia says that “what’s his name” would probably pay more for the candle performance. It’s not clear to me if this particular person is referred to elsewhere in Nexus. In contemplating this, Stasia adds that he’d want to “suck [her] off” too, but that she doesn’t like that, at least not “by a pervert.” Mona screams for Stasia to stop. The candle finally falls to the floor.

51.4 “I’m crazy”
As Stasia dresses, she says that she has no moral sense and is crazy, therefore she’s the one who should take the brunt of being “injured or humiliated” and not Mona—“your dear wife.” Nexus had begun with references to Stasia being in a mental hospital—See 8.26, page 9, and page 10.

51.5 my guardians
Stasia pulls an envelope out of a drawer: there’s a check inside “sent to me by my guardians. Enough to pay next month’s rent.” This is an interesting detail for trying to sort out who exactly Stasia (Jean Kronski) was. One hypothesis is that she’d been adopted (see The Many Names of Jean Kronski); this little detail certainly backs this up, as adoptive or foster parents seems to be the only way she can mean “guardians” in this context.

Stasia then proceeds to tear up the check, rhetorically saying “we don’t want that kind of money, do we”—meaning, I presume, ‘clean’ money or charity.

51.6 “pretending that we’re Lesbians”
It’s not the guardians’ money they want, says Stasia, making a point—“We know how to make our own way…giving exhibitions…pretending that we’re Lesbians.” A long-standing question has been, Were June and Jean really in a sexual lesbian relationship? Her statement seems to imply that they’d at least engaged sexually for the sake of performance, but Stasia adds: “pretending that we’re make-believe Lesbians. Pretending, pretending, …I’m sick of it. Why don’t we pretend that we’re just human beings?”

Does “pretending that we’re make-believe” mean that their role-playing was obviously fake, that no real contact was made, that their sexual interaction in those exhibitions was less than convincing? And does her desire to just be a human being and not a pretend-Lesbian mean that her lesbian leanings have been a façade all along, or does it mean that she just wants to be herself--lesbian, bisexual or whatever--without playing the role of lesbian-as-heterosexual-male-object?

Just a general reminder: all scenes and lines of dialogue are written by Miller, and should not necessarily be considered objective, accurate or even factual.

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