Deception ~ Deceitful, misleading, specious
This topic chose me. I randomly opened Volume 1 of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary to the D section and ran my finger down the page, opened my eyes and my finger had landed on Deception. I wasn’t happy with the negative impression I have of the word: underhanded, fraud, monkey business. I’ve been carrying this word around with me for a few days, wondering how it fits my theme.
In the Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus I came across a challenge of how to describe a person who is said to be deceptively strong? I would describe Ruth, the main character in The Winter Loon as deceptively strong.
Ruth handles and rides horses like a pro. She competes in relay races, one of the most dangerous rodeo events of the era. After a few months on the rodeo circuit, she dresses as a cowboy and joins a steer wrestling team as a hazer. A hazer rides alongside an eight hundred plus pound steer to keep it running in a straight line for the bulldogger who in a few seconds wrestles the steer to the ground. It takes a lot of skill and guts, especially for a woman in a man’s world.
But Ruth has a softer, weaker side. She has trouble being assertive. Raised to believe she should marry and be cared for by her husband, Ruth conforms to her gender role. When she leaves home for the rodeo, she is a follower who must learn to stand up for herself. She let’s Mac, her cowboy sponsor who fronts the money push her around even though she earns high prize dollars. The underbelly of Ruth’s strength is her passivity.
There’s also a deceptively positive aspect to deception. It has a self-protective side for women in keeping their relationship hidden. The white lies about being spinsters, saying they live together to save money during the Great Depression were deceptive. The fact that the truth could result in persecution, losing everyone and everything dear, physical harm and even death, made deception advantageous. But it also took a toll on a person’s freedom to be authentic and relaxed with co-workers, with family and casual friends. The underbelly of living a self-protective life through deception is fear.
Eleanor Roosevelt was probably the best-known woman of the Thirties who lived a duplicitous life because of the woman she loved. I don’t use duplicitous in a pejorative way. She lived a secret life to protect herself and her husband and to keep from shocking her adoring public.
It wasn’t totally secret. In The Winter Loon Ruth and Gisela laugh over “lesbians in the White House” when Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas have tea with Mrs. Roosevelt. According to the book, Loving Eleanor by Susan Wittig Albert, FDR took action to cover up Lorena Hickok’s relationship with his wife.
It’s a great read about not only about the relationship between Lorena and Eleanor, but also about strong, professional women of the 1930s.
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