The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike
1984 part 3 set in the 1960/70s
Your cares evaporated in the entry hall, where the sulphurous scents greeted you, and an apparent elephant’s-foot umbrella stand holding a cluster of old-fashioned knobs and handles on second glance turned out to be a single painted casting, even to the little strap and snap button holding the umbrella furled – one more mocking work of art.
Fidel took her jacket, a man’s zippered windbreaker. More and more Alexandra found men’s clothes comfortable; first she began to buy their shoes and gloves, then corduroy and chino trousers that weren’t so nipped at the waist as women’s slacks were, and lately the nice, roomy, efficient jackets men hunt and work in. Why should they have all the comfort while we martyr ourselves with spike heels and all the rest of the slave-fashions sadistic fags wish upon us?..
Jane and Sukie were already in the music room… Jane’s aura was slightly muddy with anger and Sukie’s rosy and amused, as usual. They had all, in their sweaters and dungarees, evidently underdressed for the occasion.
observations: The three witches have arrived at Darryl Van Horne’s house on Easter Sunday. He represents the Devil, and is about to reveal to the women that he has married (significantly, the day before, the Saturday between Crucifixion and Resurrection) the young and beautiful Jenny. The women will not be pleased. There is some discussion about what Updike meant with this novel, whether it was an attack on patriarchy, a book in praise of women and their power. But the women behave exactly as women in other Updike novels, or, really, a lot of other novels by male writers set on the East Coast of the USA. They may be witches, but they still fall for men, get jealous and behave badly. They still need men to feel better.
In this extract there is no idea that Alexandra could find women’s clothes that are comfortable – she has to aspire to men’s clothes. (The part was played by Cher in the 1987 film, with exactly the costume implications you would guess.)
Links up with: The role of dress designers was in question earlier this week … Miss Pettigrew’s suitor thought underwear was the key. Jack Nicholson, star of Halloween week special’s The Shining, plays Darryl in the film.
The picture is from the Library of Congress collection, and shows a wartime assembly-line worker.