The Female Persuasion

by

Meg Wolitzer

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The Female Persuasion: Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Cory had been born Duarte Jr., but after his parents moved their family from Portugal to Massachusetts, Cory picked the most American name he could think of to go by. At school, Cory constantly felt as if he had to prove himself and only felt confident and secure at home with his family. His parents praised him and his little brother, Alby, as “geniuses.” Cory grew up very differently from his cousin Sabio, or Sab, who obsessed with pornography by age thirteen, and once showed Cory a picture in a magazine of a girl dripping candle wax all over a man’s naked torso.
Cory’s desires and decisions are rooted in his fears of not amassing enough sociopolitical power due to his working-class, immigrant roots. The flashback to Sab’s magazine explains why Cory let Greer pour candle wax on him in high school, suggesting that Cory, like Greer, is preoccupied by power dynamics.
Themes
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Sociopolitical Power vs. Personal Fortitude  Theme Icon
One afternoon, during his senior year of high school, Cory played a game with his friends that involved rating their female classmates on an attractiveness scale of 1 to 10. Cory was proud of himself for defending Greer Kadetsky, whom his classmates were ready to label as a “6,” but whom Cory insisted was a “9.” After that afternoon, Cory became borderline obsessed with Greer Kadetsky and began striking up conversations with her in an attempt to get closer to her. When Greer and Cory at last became involved in a relationship, Sab called Cory a “pussy” for refusing to look at porn with him any longer, but Cory didn’t really care. Soon, he would be leaving his whole family behind for college.
Cory sees himself as chivalrous for having helped Greer to obtain more sociopolitical power in the eyes of his sleazy high school friends, even if that sociopolitical power is flimsy and based on attractiveness. It is clear in this passage that power dynamics are important to Cory, and that from an early age, he has felt compelled to “save” women—something that will reemerge later in the novel.
Themes
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Cory and Greer planned to attend the same college. On the day that admissions decisions came out, Greer was rejected from Princeton, though she was accepted to Yale. After getting Greer’s decisions, the two of them walked back across the road to Cory’s house, where his parents were waiting with two cakes bearing the insignias of Princeton and Yale. He’d gotten into both schools with full scholarships. Cory’s parents asked Greer if she’d gotten a full ride to Yale too, but Greer confessed that in her excitement, she hadn’t checked. When she and Cory went back to her house to look, they were miserable to find out that due to Greer’s parents’ having incorrectly completed her financial aid forms, she was not offered enough money to attend. Cory pitied Greer, who was now forced to attend her safety school, Ryland, where she was awarded a full ride based on merit.
Though Greer and Cory have done all they can to ensure that they will travel through their lives together on even footing, an imbalance of power nonetheless comes into play as they prepare to enter college. They are different people and are perhaps destined for different things. This creates a sense of imbalance, and even jealousy, between the two of them, as they are forced to reckon with the divergent paths their lives are about to take and the different opportunities that will be available to them.
Themes
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Sociopolitical Power vs. Personal Fortitude  Theme Icon
Greer and Cory parted ways tearfully at the end of the summer, and Cory headed off to Princeton. He and Greer video chatted each night and frequently travelled back and forth between campuses. Nonetheless, Cory found himself tempted by all the attention he was getting from the girls at Princeton, especially from Clove Wilberson. Now, college is nearly over, and Cory is reckoning with the several times he has cheated on Greer with Clove over the years. He blames his infidelity on having been drunk each time he slept with Clove, but he has never told Greer of his repeated betrayals of her.
Cory feels a great deal of shame about not being faithful to Greer, but there is also seems to be a part of him that enjoys having a life that is separate from Greer and from the pressures and obligations of partnership. Greer and Cory had envisioned keeping their lives perfectly intertwined, but as the braids between them begin to fray, Cory finds himself continuing to untangle himself from Greer rather than attempting to solidify his relationship with her.
Themes
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Cory and the friends he has been planning on developing his app with decide that they will all need to spend a year or two in the workforce making money separately in order to fund their dream startup. Cory is soon recruited by a renowned consulting firm, and they offer him a cushy job in New York City. When Cory tells Greer the news over video chat, she is excited for him and tells him coyly that she has been thinking about what job she wants for herself. Greer excitedly tells Cory that no matter what happens in their futures, at least they’ll be together—Cory briefly wishes the video chat connection would fail and remove him from this intimate moment with Greer.
Despite the chinks and small fractures in their relationship, Cory and Greer maintain the same goal—they want to live together in Brooklyn, and finally be physically together as often, and be as emotionally close, as they were in high school. However, Cory seems to have some doubts about having a shared life with Greer, as evidenced by the way he wishes the video chat connection would fail.
Themes
Sociopolitical Power vs. Personal Fortitude  Theme Icon