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April 2004 Book Review 
  A Woman's Place by Ann Helming
Copyright 1962 by Ann Helming

The rabbis taught, for example, that after the creation of Adam God
fashioned from the same clay a woman called Lilith, and gave her to
him as companion.  But Lilith would not obey Adam on the pretext
that being formed from the same clay she was his equal.  God was
then constrained to create a new woman named Eve, whom he took
from Adam's side that she might have no cause to boast of her origin.

Emile Male in "The Gothic Image"

Chapter I.

This is Ellen Devore, whose real name is Lilith, although she does not
know it yet.  She sits in front of a television set with her arms around
her small son, watching, listening with a strange absorption.  Beyond
the glass wall at the end of the white living room, Los Angeles lies
baking in the afternoon sun of a day in early September.  The Santa
Ana, the hot wind from the desert inland, has been blowing for two
days, and there is no smog.  In the clear air, the view is magnificent,
but she has not pulled open the thin draperies to admire it.  Instead
she sits and watches the blue-white screen in utter concentration,
and her eyes, the deep-set eyes of a saint or a witch, are troubled,
not amused.

Stevie turned suddenly and thrust his head, which was boulder-hard
and too big for his body, against the crook of her elbow.  "Why can't
I watch Popeye, Mama?"

"I told you.  Because this afternoon I have a program I want to see,"  
Ellen said.  She did not take her eyes off the set.  "That lady on the
screen is my friend."

"I don't like this program."

"Then go to your room and play."  Her voice was low, but it had such
arresting vibrancy that she never needed to raise it to command
attention.  She pushed him gently off the large footstool they had
been sharing.  "Go on."

"I don't want to."

"Stevie."

He sighed, recognizing finality, and left the room slowly, scuffing the
toes of his blunt, smudgy-white shoes along the carpet, which was
white, too.

His mother's eyes had never left the screen.

Sigrid.  Sigrid Hadley.  She's better than she used to be.  But then she
never stopped.  Five more years of experience.  She's better-looking
too.  Not really pretty, but striking.  She's learned how to make the
most of herself.  Poise.  That she never had before.  And something
else.  Authority.  It's as though she really knows who she is.

Ellen's stomach contracted slightly.  She did not move until the
program was over.  When the production credits began to unroll,
she switched the set off and sat staring at the screen while the light
it contained drew itself down to a pinpoint, and then vanished.  
After a moment, she got up and went to the window wall, pulling
the cord that separated the draperies.  Beyond the little balcony
outside which hung cantilevered into space above the brush-
covered hillside, the city lay stripped of haze, brilliantly in focus.  
To the east she could see the cluster of tall, white buildings which
marked the civic center.  To the south, the Baldwin Hills bordered
the opposite side of the city from where she stood on a hill above
Hollywood.  Westward the Pacific lay along the horizon, a bright
streak of dazzle in the late sun.  Within the vast, flat basin which
held the metropolis, every house, every street stood out clear and
sharply defined, tinier than usual without the magnifying blur of
damp, dirty air, exquisite as a toy community.  It all looked nearer
than it ordinarily did, but it was still much too far away.  Ellen
thought, rubbing her forehead distractedly.  When she and Ted had
first looked at the house two years ago, she had fallen in love with
the view, but ever since they had actually lived there, she had found
it vaguely disturbing without knowing why.  Now it came to her quite
suddenly.  I don't want to be looking down on it.  I want to be in the
midst of it.  Impulsively she pushed back the sliding glass partition.  
A breeze, hot and dry as furnace air, struck her and with it up from
below came the faint, busy rumble of homebound traffic.  She could
see the cars flowing in a thick, multi-colored stream along
Hollywood Boulevard and along Fairfax, slow-moving, clotted, as
the city left its shops and offices and stores and fought its way home
to dinner.  The honking of a horn floated up to her, the squeal of tires
making a sudden stop.  There they went, all the people who were
doing something in the world.  I can see it, I can hear it, but I'm not
part of it.  Oh, I cannot live this way any longer.  I must be part of it
again.  An emotion long growing unrecognized within her burst out
at last, demanding acknowledgement.  Her throat ached, and she
closed her eyes and leaned her forehead against the glass, still hot
from the day's sun.

The sound of a key opening the front door made her turn.  
Ted was home.

"Are you melted?"  She gave him an appraising look as he walked
into the room and noted with a certain pride that except for a
slight flush, he looked as cool and well-groomed as he had when
he left that morning.

"Not exactly, but that drive through the Valley is no treat in this
weather.  Before next summer I'm going to air-condition the old
T-bird."  He set down his briefcase and kissed her, and they looked
at each other fondly.

They had been married five years, and they resembled each other
so much that people often  took them for brother and sister.  They
were blond and blue-eyed and fair, and they looked as if they
belonged together, as though they were the masculine-feminine
counterparts of each other.  Ted Devore was stocky and squarely
built, with an air of immutability.  His face had a stolid look, but
it was not stupid.  Ellen was smaller than he, more fragile, with a
sensitive face that only the perceptive recognized as beautiful
at first glance.  People were not inclined to turn and watch her
pass unless by chance they had heard her speak or noticed her
eyes, which spoke, too, in an extraordinary and subtle way.

"Gin and tonic?" Ellen asked.  "I'll make you one while you shower.  
We have an hour before they get here."

"What a night for company.  You've put the wine to chill, haven't
you?  On the bottom shelf, away from the freezer?"  Ted was very
particular about wines.

"Yes, darling," she said, feeling dutiful.  "Two bottles."

"Who's coming, again?"  He was loosening his tie and unbuttoning
his white shirt which still, surprisingly, looked immaculate.  
"The Blakes?"

"The Blakes and Leigh.  She's bringing Brick.  As usual."

"Fine."  He sounded ironic, but tolerant.  "Don Blake, who'll
undoubtedly try to sell me another policy, and that ham who
does nothing but talk about himself.  A great night for
me while you gossip with the girls."

"I know.  But after all, you like my girlfriends, too.  And what
about the evenings I spend making PTA chitchat with the wives of
missile experts while you talk shop? Turnabout, Ted, turnabout."

"All right.  Don't look so serious about it."

"That's not what I'm looking serious about,"  Ellen murmured.

"What, then?"  He was already heading down the hall toward the
bedroom.

"Wait till I get your drink."

She sat on the edge of the bed watching him as he dressed.  His
body, still deeply tanned from the summer, was well-muscled and
strong with a faint gilding of fine, blond hairs.  Ted liked sports,
and at thirty-two, with tennis and golf, skiing and surfing, he was
in superb condition.  The Greek ideal, Ellen thought, as she often
did.  The cultivated mind in the cultivated body.  She admired him
as much now as she had when they met, she adored being his wife,
and she hoped that what she was going to say wound not upset him.

"I saw an old friend of mine in a TV play this afternoon-Sigrid Hadley.  
She was at Stagecraft with me."

"Stagecraft?"

"You know.  The little theater where I was working when you met me.  
I don't suppose you'd remember her."

"No, I don't.  How was she?"

"Not bad.  I would have been better.  It was a part I really could have
played."

Ted laughed. "Brought out the ham in you again, did it?"

She frowned.  "I was good, Ted.  Anyway, sometimes I thought I was.  
And so did other people."

"And you gave it all up.  Your budding career.  To be my wife."  His hair,
darkly wet from the shower, gleamed in the late orange light from the
window as he combed it carefully, looking in the mirror.

"Sometimes I think I'd like to do a little acting again,"  Ellen said
hesitantly.

"Come on, El.  You know my views on that subject.  One career per
family is enough."

"I don't mean a career, exactly.  But if I could just do a show once in
awhile I wouldn't feel so..."

"So what?"

"I don't know.  So out of things.  So confined."

He looked at her in the mirror.  "What do you mean, confined?  Now
that Stevie's in nursery school, you can get out of the house whenever
you want to."

"I need to do more than get out of the house.  I need to play a part
again, I--"

"You've got a part, El."  He was putting on his tie now, and he looked
at her levelly as he tightened the knot.  "You're my wife.  You're
Stevie's mother."

"I know.  And that's the most important thing in the world to me,
but..." She stopped helplessly.  How would it sound if she said it was
not enough?

"I'm  going to have to get you pregnant again.  If it wasn't so damned
hot, I'd do it right now.  Dad always maintained a pregnant woman is
a happy woman."

"Not necessarily.  Anyway, as your father should know, being a doctor,
it's only a trick of metabolism.  Like the post-maternal blues."

"Is that what you've got, El?  The post-maternal blues?  Stevie's four.  
For an actress you're a very slow study."  He had put on his trousers,
and as he fastened the belt he came over to her.  "Stand up."

When she obeyed, he led her to the mirror over her dressing table.  It
was large, it returned their images generously framed, a handsome young
couple, a man and woman who anyone could see belonged together.

"Who's that?"  he demanded.  "Who's that girl?"

Ellen stared at herself.  Her eyes, as she saw them reflected, looked
baffled and uncertain.  "I don't know," she said at last.

"You don't know?  I'll tell you who it is.  It's Mrs. Ted Devore, that's
who it is.  Keep it in mind.  And fix another drink, will you, while I go
and turn the water on outside."

They dined by candlelight on the minute balcony overlooking the city.  
The air was quiet and still hot, and the vast, intricate pattern of light
below them twinkled and vibrated, audibly it seemed, as the distant,
far-flung murmur of traffic came up to them like a sound made by
the lights themselves.  Overhead, high-flying strays from the city
below, the running lights of an invisible plane hummed steadily
southwest toward International Airport through the impersonal,
faintly starred blackness of the night sky.  How lucky I am, Ellen
thought guiltily, cooling her fingers against the moisture-beaded
globe of her wineglass.  How can I not be satisfied when I have this
view, this house, Stevie, and Ted....She looked down the table at her
husband.  He was talking politics to Leigh, talking quickly,
authoritatively, with an occasional thrust of his head for emphasis,
and Leigh was listening attentively, as was Marty Blake on his
other side.  My friends respect him, she thougth with pride, and they
are intelligent women.

"Look at the girl mooning at her husband,"  she was suddenly aware
of Don Blake saying.  "She hasn't heard a word I said.  If my wife ever
looked at me like that, I'd--"

"I'm sorry, Don.  Can I give you some more wine?"

"Just a drop.  Ju-u-ust a drop."  His fair, inconsequential face was
flushed, and as he reached for the filled glass, he knocked it with his
hand and spilled some.  "Oops."  He took his napkin and mopped
clumsily, catching the empty lobster shell on his plate and making
it rattle.

"Don't bother,"  Ellen told him.  "It's all right."

"You're a good kid, Ellen.  You know that?"  As Ellen smiled at him,
he looked down toward the other end of the table.  "Kansas was never
like this, hey, Leigh?"  he said loudly, pulling her attention away
from Ted.

Leigh Willoughby looked at him blandly.  She was a tall, sophisticated-
looking girl with black hair cropped short and rather straight after the
fashion of the 20's.  "No, Kansas was never like this."

"If the hicks back there could only see you now, they'd never believe it."  
He laughed immoderately.

"If you mean because she looks more like Paris than Coffeyville, you're
quite right."  Ellen said smoothly.

"Is that where you're from?  Coffeyville?"  Don asked.

"A little town nearby.  I'm sure you've never heard of it,"  Leigh said.

Brick Morgan, potentially the next Tarzan, a Jantzen ad come to life,
gave her a proprietary look.  "Jesus. Can you see Leigh doing the
rural bit?"

"I bet she was combing the hay out of her hair all the time."  Don said,
snickering.

"Marty, how's your job these days?"  Ellen said hastily.

"Oh, fine,"  Marty said.  The glare she was directing at her husband
broke off, and she gave Ellen a grateful smile.  She had a pleasant,
determined face, undistinguished brown hair, and a more matronly
look than either Leigh or Ellen although they were all the same age.  
"We're working like mad on the back-to-school ads."

"Is your boss still sick?"

"She's not well.  I've had a lot more responsibility lately because of it."

"Miss Finch?  Is she ill?"  Leigh asked.  "I'm not surprised.  I thought
she looked it that day I interviewed her for the series."

"What series is that?" Ted asked.

"I've been doing some features on outstanding local businesswomen.  
You mean you don't read the Star-News?" Leigh said banteringly.

"We should,"  Ellen said.  "We really should subscribe just so I could
see what you're doing."  She sounded wistful.

"You should also come downtown and have lunch with us more often
now that Stevie's in school."  Marty said.  "In fact, come next week.  
Ellison's is having a sale in Better Dresses you could look at, then come
upstairs and pick me up, and we'll go over to the paper and get Leigh
together."

"Yes," Leigh said.  "Come to Smogville and see how the other half lives.  
One afternoon downtown on a day like this, and you'll really appreciate
your beautiful hilltop."

"Can I come, too?" Don Blake asked.  "Maybe you could do a feature
on me, Leigh.  Gee, I'd like that.  Come to think of it, why aren't you
doing features on men, anyway, instead of wasting valuable time with
women?"

There was an awkward silence.

"Don, why do you always needle Leigh?"  Marty's face was red with
embarrassment.

"Because she gives him an inferiority complex, that's why," Ted said.  
He gave Don a look of mild loathing.

Don jerked around.  "Not an inferiority complex, chum.  A pain.  
That's what all these career girls give me.  A pain.  I won't tell
you where."

"Speaking of careers, I'm thinking of going back to work myself,"
Ellen said.  The words came out almost without her volition, and she
was startled to hear them.

"Oh, no.  Not another one," Don Blake said.

"Ellen!  How marvelous!"  Marty said.  "When did you decide?"

"Just today."  She avoided Ted's eyes.  "I've been feeling restless for
a long time, especially now that Stevie's gone all day.  Then this
afternoon I saw an old friend of mine on TV, and that did it."

"Good girl," said Brick.  "You never quite came off as a hausfrau.  
You're not the type."

"That's a matter of opinion."  Ted's voice had the edge that meant
he was angry.

"Got an agent?" Brick went on, unperturbed.  "I'll get you an
appointment with mine.  Not that the ...ever does a ...thing for me."

"That would be wonderful."  Ellen's heart was beginning to pound,
and she felt disturbed and frightened and excited.

"You, too,"  Leigh said.  She was looking at Ellen with a strange
little smile.  "I thought you had it licked.  Well, welcome to the
club, Lilith."

"Lilith?"

"It's just a theory of mine."  Leigh hesitated, and her face had the
diffident expression Ellen remembered from their college days.  It
meant she was about to say some thoughtful thing that meant a great
deal to her, and she hoped nobody would hate her for it.

"Come on, give, girl,"  Ellen said, smiling at her.

"Well, all right then.  There are two kinds of women, the Eves and
the Liliths.  Lilith-well, it's a strange story.  A myth, really.  It isn't
in the Bible.  Lilith was Adam's first wife.  God made her out of the s
ame clay, so she felt she was Adam's equal and behaved accordingly,
and they had all kinds of trouble."  Leigh bit her lip.  "So, then
God created another woman, Eve, to be Adam's wife instead, and
He made her out of Adam's rib so she'd have nothing to brag about.

"Well, you can see how it works out.  Eve, of course, is the woman
who's perfectly happy being an appendage to a man, cooking his food,
washing his socks, bearing his children.  And Lilith-well, Lilith has
other goals she thinks are important."

"Then you're a Lilith, too," Ellen said.  "Aren't you?  And what about
Marty?  She has a job."

"It's more than just having a job," Leigh said.  "Yes, I think Marty is,
too."

"Then we all are?"  Marty laughed.  "That's funny, since we're such good
friends."

"Oh, no, that's the way it always is," Leigh said quickly.  "Liliths stick
together, and so do Eves.  I think it's because each of them finds the
other's way of life kind of
disturbing."

"Why should that be?" Ellen asked.

Leigh shrugged.  "These days no matter which a woman chooses,
marriage or a career, she's afraid she's missing out on something.  
And of course, the ones who try to combine the two have their own
problems.  Anyway, that's what I've gathered from these interviews
I've been doing."

"That doesn't surprise me in the least," Ted said pointedly.  In the
silence that followed, Ellen could feel him staring at her down the
length of the table.

"Whatever happened to Lilith, anyway?"  Marty asked.

"I don't know," Leigh said hesitantly.  She twisted her wineglass,
rolling the stem between her fingers.  "I think maybe God destroyed
her because she didn't work out."

"It's nine-thirty," Ted said abruptly.  "There's a rerun of a rocket
launching at the Cape I want to see on TV.  Anybody care to join me?"

"Oh, Christ," Don muttered.

"Sounds exciting," Marty said, giving him a look.  "I'll buy it."

"Okay by me," Brick said.  "And while the set's on, I'm doing something
at ten."

"Play?" Ellen asked.

"Hair oil commercial."

The Devores' living room was furnished with slim, modern furniture
of Scandinavian design.  The TV set was encased in a teak cabinet which
also held a hi-fi radio and
record player.

They took seats as Ted quickly found the channel.  On the screen,
men were moving intently around a control room.  Lights flashed, knobs
were turned on an immense panel.  There was an electric air of
concentration, of held-in tension.  Orders and information crackled
between these men and others in the blockhouse by the rocket.  At last
the count down began.  The rocket stood erect and waiting in its scaffolding.  
Four, three, two, one--slowly, slowly it rose with an immense determination.  
The scaffolding  fell away in slow motion as it lifted its blunt, ominous head
into the atmosphere.

"Rockets kill me," Leigh said.  "Airplanes are positively alive by comparison.  
At least you can see moving parts on them.  This thing looks as though it's
propelling itself by an act of will."

"It is, Leigh, it is," Ted said.  His face, usually so stolid, was tense with
excitement.  "The will of man."

Leigh smiled at Ellen.  "Well, just listen.  The scientist turns poetic."

The scene shifted to the control room.  Tension released, the men were
laughing, pounding each other on the back.  As a jumble of excited voices
came over the speaker, Ted turned back to watch, sharing their elation.

"Look at him," Ellen said to Leigh in a low voice.  "He loves his work so.  
Missiles are his whole life.  And you know something?  I could get the same
way about acting.

The conversation went on for another hour.  Outside the air remained
desertlike, and crickets chirped so loudly they seemed to be in the room.  

"I hate to break the party up so early, but I have a terrible day tomorrow,"  
Marty said at last.  "Dozens of layouts to check."

"Ted, have you thougth any more about that accident policy I told you
about?"  Don said.  "Cover you for surfing, all that skiing you and Ellen
do...."

"I'll call you about it, Don.  I'll call you," Ted said.

When the door had closed on their guests, Ellen looked at Ted uncertainly.  
She hated having him disapprove of anything she did.  "I'm sorry, darling.  
I was listening to them talk about their jobs, and it just slipped out.  But I
meant it.  I have to go back to work."......


We hope you have enjoyed this months book review of the book titled:  
A Woman's Place by Ann Helming.




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