The Female Persuasion

The Female Persuasion Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
During her first few weeks at Loci, Greer proves herself to be an eager and enthusiastic employee—though she soon realizes that there are limits to what she can actually do there. Her tasks are mostly inconsequential, and Greer feels “removed from the grand venture of helping women.” Greer doesn’t feel particularly connected to her coworkers, either, who are aloof and busy with their own tasks. Cory has been texting Greer and asking her to share anecdotes from her days, but Greer doesn’t feel she has anything interesting to tell him. She feels perpetually on the outside of what’s really going on at Loci and watches longingly as Faith and the higher-ups meet in the conference room to discuss what seem to Greer like very important matters.
Now that Greer has gotten what she always wanted—proximity to Faith Frank—she finds herself wishing that she were actually able to do more than simply exist within Faith’s orbit. She is not even one of Faith’s mentees or more trusted employees. Greer is disappointed to find that even in the mix of it all, she still feels like a shy, inconsequential outsider unable to effect any real change on behalf of girls or women.
Themes
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Greer has come to realize how seductive Faith is to everyone around her—employees included—and how this makes her a powerful figure. Faith is no visionary, but she is good at sifting through other people’s ideas and framing them in interesting ways. Faith is very private, and though no one at the company knows much about her, they all want to—especially Greer, who can hardly stop fantasizing about what Faith’s private life must be like.
For the first time, Greer understands the extent of Faith’s magnetism. Faith draws in everyone around her, and as Greer witnesses this quality in action, she wishes she could learn more about how Faith has come to possess and maintain her sense of internal power and personal fortitude.
Themes
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One afternoon, Faith approaches Greer’s cubicle, and asks Greer to stop by her office later. Greer worries that she has displeased Faith in some way, but when Greer enters Faith’s office—with Zee’s letter tucked into a folder, as she has been waiting for a good time to give it to Faith—Faith is smiling. The two of them sit on the couch, and Faith asks Greer for her impressions of how Loci is doing. She wants to know if her grand new venture is really “grand” after all. Greer tells her that perhaps it is more of a “baby grand,” and Faith smiles at her. Greer offers a slew of suggestions, one of which is to take a look at what “newer” feminist blogs and websites are talking about. As soon as she says this, she remembers that these websites sometimes take swipes at Faith for being a “corporate feminist.”
Greer is pleased and honored to find that she is more valued than she thought she was—Faith wants to hear what she has to say, and just as she did that first night in the chapel back at Ryland College, she urges Greer to freely speak her mind. Greer is honest with Faith, despite knowing that some of what she has to offer might sting. In this passage, Greer reveals that she does actually care what’s going on at Loci—not just proximity to Faith—and wants to do her part to make sure that Faith’s “grand” venture actually experiences some success.
Themes
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Faith tells Greer that she’ll take a look at the blogs but reminds Greer that she is not radical and neither is Loci. As Faith and Greer’s discussion winds down, Greer feels that it has gone well and does not want to complicate things by introducing Zee’s letter, so she does not bring it up. As she walks back down the hall to her cubicle, Greer realizes that she does not want to give Zee’s letter to Faith at all. Even though Greer does not want to “share” Faith with Zee, Greer tells herself that she will give the letter to Faith tomorrow.
In this passage, Greer and Faith both demonstrate the truths of their feminism. Faith is up front about how much she can do and how much change she can actually effect. Meanwhile, Greer comes to realize that she values individualism more than sisterhood—she finds herself wanting to ensure her own success even if it means keeping Zee from achieving success, too.
Themes
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By Friday evening, Greer still hasn’t delivered the letter. As the day winds down, she hears her coworkers discussing evening plans to go out together, and she feels left out and sad. As Greer sits at her cubicle feeling lonely, she hears “heavy and male” footsteps coming down the hall, and soon she sees Emmett Shrader coming toward her. She has met him once before but is still struck by his powerful demeanor. He is seventy years old with long silver hair and dresses in expensive clothes. Although this evening Emmett is dressed casually, Greer thinks there is still something “important” about him.
Greer unexpectantly finds herself face to face with the most powerful man at the organization, Emmett Shrader. Being in his presence causes Greer to meditate, if even briefly, on what masculine power looks like when contrasted with feminine power. While Faith’s power lies in her intoxicating warmth, Emmett’s power centers on his large physical presence and visible displays of wealth through his clothing.
Themes
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Emmett approaches Greer and asks her “which one” she is. Greer is excited by Shrader’s presence because he is so different from men her own age—hipsters and boys who pay little attention to their appearances. Emmett asks Greer what she does at Loci, and she tells him she handles the booking—other people pick the speakers, but she is in charge of trying to get them to come. Emmett asks Greer why she’s at the office so late, and she points out that he is here late too. He reveals that he and the “boss lady”, Faith, have “two-person soirees” every once in a while. Emmett tells Greer that he needs the one-on-one time with Faith—without it, he says, he doesn’t know what he’d do.
Emmett doesn’t have to demonstrate any interest in Greer—she is a low-level employee—but nonetheless he does. Not only that, but he is rather open with her, revealing his deep attachment to Faith and admitting that he, too, for all his pomp and power, would be lost without Faith’s attention and influence. In this way, despite the imbalance of power between them, Greer sees herself reflected in the formidable Emmett Shrader. However, Emmett does assert his power by dehumanizing Greer—perhaps unintentionally—when he asks “which one” she is rather than what her name is. 
Themes
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Greer agrees that Faith is “wonderful.” Emmett asks Greer if she’s a “Faith Frank groupie,” and Greer demurs, telling him that she merely admires Faith. Emmett asks Greer if she thinks that Faith can do no wrong. Greer again insists that she simply admires Faith, and Emmett admits that he admires Faith, too. He reaches over and spins a hairbrush Greer has lying on her desk, and she thinks about how she has read in articles that Emmett Shrader is easily bored and restless and has a very short attention span.
Emmett knows about Faith’s “groupies,” and is trying to discern whether Greer is one of them. Although Greer definitely is a “Faith Frank groupie,” Greer deflects, and attempts to convince Emmett that she is just another employee at the company, with a normal level of investment in a relationship with Faith. Perhaps Greer wants Emmett to judge her based on her commitment to feminism rather than her commitment to Faith—or maybe Greer is simply being coy in front of such a powerful, possibly intimidating man. 
Themes
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Emmett asks Greer why she isn’t out with all of her coworkers, and Greer self-pityingly explains that no one invited her. Emmett urges Greer to get up and follow him to the communal kitchen. There, above the coffee machine, is a sign which reads, “FRIDAY DRINKS!” and provides details regarding where to meet. Greer wonders how she missed the sign. Emmett urges Greer to go catch up with everyone else, so Greer complies and hurries out of the office.
Greer is both relieved and excited to realize that she was not purposefully excluded by her new office community—she was simply so busy that she failed to notice the sign in the communal space. Her interaction with Emmett leaves her feeling empowered, rather than insignificant, despite Emmett’s overwhelming wealth and power. In this way, Emmett is much like Faith in that his presence is intimidating but also uplifting.
Themes
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At the bar, Greer slips into a booth with her colleagues, and they offer to get her a drink to celebrate the end of a difficult week. Greer insists that her job isn’t that stressful, though she wishes it was. Her coworkers laugh at that statement and assure her that things will ramp up quickly—she needs to make herself indispensable if she wants to do more.
Greer is enthusiastic to the point of ridiculousness, showing that she is still doe-eyed about Loci, feminism, and Faith. While her colleagues find her naivete charming, they genuinely urge her to follow her passions and work harder if she wants more to do.
Themes
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As the conversation shifts to feminism and misogyny, Greer listens to her coworkers’ playful banter and finds herself wishing that Zee were here with her. She remembers, with more than a twinge of shame, that she is the very reason why Zee is not here. The conversation grows excitable as Greer and her colleagues continue to drink, but it eventually flatlines, becoming “reflective and weary.” As everyone prepares to leave, Faith walks in, and soon the night catches a second wind.
Greer is saddened when she realizes that by slighting Zee (by secretly refusing to give Faith Zee’s letter), Greer is in a way slighting herself. This realization highlights Greer’s selfishness, as well as the way that she prioritizes individualism over sisterhood. Greer only cares about the way she has negatively impacted Zee when it begins to negatively affect Greer herself. 
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Greer is amazed by the way Faith is able to “maneuver her way along the table without moving,” giving each of her employees her attention for a few minutes at a time, listening to their stories and offering commentary or an amused expression. When it is Greer’s turn for attention, Faith asks if Greer is making friends and finding her way at Loci. Because Greer has been drinking, she reveals to Faith that she has a friend from college who wants to come work at Loci and wants Greer to give Faith a letter on her behalf. Greer tells Faith that she doesn’t want her friend to work at Loci, even though she would be a terrific asset to the organization. Greer says that she thinks that her ambition is tied to her desire to escape her parents, and she doesn’t know how to reconcile it with her desire to be a good friend. 
Wolitzer purposefully sets this scene up as a kind of image out of the New Testament. Faith Frank, as the venerated Jesus figure, holds court over a long table of her disciples, benevolently paying attention to each of them and dispensing empathy and advice. When it is Greer’s turn, Greer reveals more than she should, but she is surprised to find that Faith is listening to her problems with empathy rather than judgment, despite the nastiness of Greer’s behavior.
Themes
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Greer asks Faith if withholding the letter, even now that she has told Faith about it, would make Greer a terrible person. Faith does not answer directly but offers either to read the letter or let the situation go and forget Greer told her anything—whatever Greer decides. Faith tells Greer that she likes the way that Greer approaches problems and compliments her for being “genuine and thoughtful,” even about difficult things. Faith asks Greer if she would like to do some writing as part of her job, and Greer enthusiastically replies that she would.
In a subversion of Greer’s own expectations, Faith reacts not with scorn, but with empathy, and actually applauds Greer for being in touch with her thoughts and feelings. Faith even offers Greer more power, and Greer begins to learn that speaking up has more than its fair share of benefits. Faith’s empathetic response in this passage is reflective of Faith’s feel-good feminism. Instead of reprimanding Greer for chasing success at the expense of another woman (which, presumably, does not make Greer a very good feminist), Faith praises Greer for her honesty. In this moment, it seems that Faith also values individualism more than sisterhood.
Themes
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Faith reveals that Loci will be holding small, private media lunches and dinners around the city in the weeks leading up to the summit. Faith plans to invite speakers to these events and wants the speakers to be women who have experienced justice. None of these women are used to public speaking, however, and Faith wants Greer to write speeches for them. Greer is thrilled that she has found a way to make herself indispensable and feels that the evening has been a great success, even the “difficult” confession she made to Faith concerning Zee’s letter.
Greer’s excitement about her newfound indispensability shows that she measures her own success not necessarily in terms of moral triumphs, but personal ones. However, even as she flirts with moral ambiguity, Greer finds herself finally able to dedicate herself to a feminist cause and do something tangible to help real women. 
Themes
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By Monday, Greer has forgotten about Zee’s letter almost entirely, and Faith does not mention it. Several days later, Greer finally remembers about the letter, but she figures it is too late and decides to drop the whole thing. That night, Zee calls Greer and asks if she ever gave the letter to Faith. Greer lies and tells Zee that there are no jobs available. Zee asks if Faith said anything about the contents of the letter to Greer. Greer lies and says that she didn’t. Zee thanks Greer for trying, and Greer is relieved that even though she has lied, the whole awkward affair is over.
Though Greer has to lie to her best friend, she feels little remorse about the betrayal. Instead, Greer is simply relieved that her own life has been largely un-impacted by the letter and its potential consequences. Once again, Greer acts selfishly and prioritizes herself rather than the people around her.
Themes
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The next day at work, Greer finds a folder on her desk containing printouts about all of the women who are going to be giving talks at the upcoming media events. Over the next couple of months, the women, one by one, come into the office. Greer interviews them all and proves to be a great listener. The women confide their stories in her, all of which contain a “deep and grinding sense of unfairness.” Womanhood is unfair, and the world is unfair, and as these women pour their hearts out to Greer, Greer understands the gravity of her responsibility to tell these women’s stories.
Despite her difficulty speaking up, Greer is an excellent listener. She throws herself into helping the women she is writing speeches for, demonstrating Greer’s empathy and genuine passion for feminism. Greer’s compassion toward the women but insensitivity toward Zee forces the reader to confront that there are many aspects to a person, and that a person is not necessarily a good feminist or a bad one.
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After the first speaker shares her story at the first media party (reciting the speech that Greer wrote for her), Faith comes up to Greer and tells her she has “nailed it.” Greer is excited by Faith’s praise, but what thrills Greer the most is that by writing speeches for these women, Greer is helping them recognize and pursue their own sense of ambition.
In this passage, Greer seems more like an activist than a “Faith Frank groupie.” Although  she is grateful for Faith’s praise, Greer is more excited about the advancement of women’s issues and the elevation of women’s voices.
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As winter turns to spring, things at Loci ramp up in preparation for the first major summit. Though Greer is exhausted, she has finally gotten what she wants—she is busy and useful. Faith believes that Loci’s fate rests on the success or failure of the first summit—if things don’t go well, she thinks that ShraderCapital will cease funding. A week before the summit, Faith gathers the whole company together to make an announcement. She tells them that no matter how the summit goes, she is proud of her team, and to show them, she would like to invite them to her vacation house upstate for the weekend. She thinks that everyone needs a little downtime before the big event.
Faith offers the retreat to her employees as a reward for their tireless work on her behalf. However, what should be an opportunity to rest and bond is something that Greer will soon come to see as just one more opportunity to endear herself to Faith and compete with her fellow employees for Faith’s attention and affection.
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On Saturday, the whole Loci group takes the same train up to Faith’s vacation house. When they arrive, Greer is mesmerized by the beautiful house and is surprised to find that she will be sleeping in the room that used to belong to Faith’s son, Lincoln. Greer wonders what it would have been like to have Faith as a mother and to have to share Faith with the world. Greer is shaken from her reverie by a knock on the door—one of her coworkers lets her know that Faith wants everyone to gather downstairs for cocktails.
Even Greer’s fantasies about Faith involve a measure of unease and insecurity. In this passage, it is clear that Greer feels possessive of Faith and assumes other people feel the same way, including Faith’s son. Despite her recent strides in terms of her own empowerment and identity as an activist, Greer still seems obsessed with securing Faith’s attention and validation.
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In the kitchen, Faith asks who wants to be her sous chef as she prepares dinner. Everyone raises their hand, but Faith selects Greer, who notes that if Faith had asked her to solve a mathematical theorem, Greer would have done everything she could to deliver. Faith tells Greer to chop onions and announces that she’ll be grilling steaks. Greer does not mention her vegetarianism.
Greer demonstrates self-awareness regarding her irrepressible desire to please Faith at any cost. However, Greer does nothing to change her behavior. Instead, she sacrifices her values (in this case, her vegetarianism) in the name of impressing Faith and appearing more like the kind of person Greer believes Faith wants her to be.
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As her employees discuss feminism, abortion rights, and the sociopolitical injustices facing women all over the world, Faith chimes in with tales from her early days with the women’s liberation movement. She predicts that just as the political left was uninterested in women’s issues in the 1960s and 1970s, politics will soon shift again toward ignorance of women’s issues. Greer listens to all of this, drinking wine and chopping onions, and soon realizes that she is slightly drunk. She cannot wait to tell Cory over video chat about the feelings of fellowship and camaraderie she feels for her coworkers and for Faith. Lost in thought, Greer slices her thumb open.
Greer is so caught up in daydreams about Faith, that she does not realize she is literally physically harming herself. The cut on her thumb serves to shake Greer from her reverie, but it does not “wake her up” to the fact that she is hurting herself by bending over backward for Faith Frank’s approval.
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Greer is mortified, but Faith quickly attends to her, applying pressure to the wound and then dressing it with ointment and gauze. Greer apologizes for making a scene, but Faith assures her that everything’s fine. Faith and Greer share a quiet moment together and see a deer in the yard. They watch it until one of Faith’s sudden movements startles it away.
Even though Greer is in pain from her cut, she is also grateful for this moment of quiet togetherness with her idol. Once again, this suggests that Greer is willing to hurt herself to earn Faith’s attention.
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A little while later, Faith lights up the grill. She asks if anyone has a problem eating meat and invites her employees to speak up if they do. Greer is silent, and when dinner is served, she dutifully cuts into her rare piece of steak. As everyone around her takes their first bites, they all fawn over how delicious the steaks are. Greer is self-conscious about being the only one left who hasn’t yet praised Faith’s meat, and so she cuts a piece of steak and spears it onto her fork. She tells herself that eating this steak is an act of love—she is making herself into someone Faith could confide in, listen to, and rely on. Greer bites into the meat, willing herself to not be sick. After swallowing, she says, “Yum.”
Greer’s choice to eat meat for the first time in over four years and abandon her closely held values, demonstrates again just how desperately she wants Faith’s approval. Greer is conscious of the decisions she is making and is willingly sacrificing her own sense of personal fortitude in pursuit of a new kind of inner strength—the strength she hopes she’ll gain once she finally feels secure in Faith’s affections and esteem. 
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Related Quotes
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On the train platform the next morning, Greer, who has been without cell phone service at Faith’s house, turns on her phone. She is confused to see that she has missed over fifty messages—almost all of them from Cory.
Something terrible has happened, but Greer has been away at Faith’s ignoring her real-world responsibilities. Now, leaving her mentor’s house, Greer is faced with reality.
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