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Day 5

W-3 by Bette Howland

Chapter 4 (p. 67–81, to end)

October 23, 2022 by Lynn Steger Strong

Dissent and assent on W-3 have little to nothing to do with wants or needs: Fran says no and gets appointed anyway, until she slips into wanting yeses all the time; Flora refuses the outing nobody wanted to begin with, only to eventually, inevitably, be convinced otherwise.

We get so few glimpses of Bette's past, but here we learn she was a prodigy: college at fifteen, graduation at eighteen, "Now a dozen more years had passed—and I was going bowling though I didn't really want to." All that potential; almost no agency right now.

The "narco ward" visitors bring a realization about W-3: all that "relentless community," and yet: maybe from those performative assertions of agency, the meetings, etc., the inmates are given just enough a glimpse of a self that there is still an undercurrent of separateness.

There was no pool table on the narco ward… And yet they stuck together; they were truly a body, a group, in the sense that we on W-3 could never be. And maybe the ‘clothes,’ the ‘community,’ all the social emphasis of W-3 was really meant to prevent this from happening—precisely this; to prevent us from ganging up, closing ranks in the instinctive, elementary way: we against them.

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