A Writer's Reaction

Melissa Caruso (English 112, 1996)

I'm a writer, and to me, Patchwork Girl was all about the act of writing- and, more specifically, about writing in a hypertext environment. The text is as conscious of its own process of creation as the Patchwork Girl is about hers, and they were made in much the same way. It takes no special intuition to see that the parts of the Patchwork Girl are sewn together much like the lexias of the document itself are linked together--Jackson points out the similarity from the very beginning, with her words of instruction or warning that could be voiced equally validly by her character or her text: "I am buried here. You can resurrect me, but only piecemeal. If you want to see the whole, you will have to sew me together yourself." This is a remarkably apt description of hypertext, which I have found hard to describe myself in my various attempts to explain it to my parents. Jackson's paralells continue throughout the entire hypertext, from the "written" and "sewn" lexias that blend the act of writing the Patchwork Girl and of creating her together to slightly more subtle cues, such as the appearance of imagery such as forking paths that make us think of hypertext.

It is possible to read the entire work as being about the act of writing. Anyone who has ever felt a piece of writing "get away from them" can identify with the loss of control the Patchwork Girl experiences when pieces of her own body rebel and she begins to fall apart. The meeting and ensuing relationship between Mary and the Girl can be seen as the relationship between the author and the text. The different histories of the various parts of the Patchwork Girl parallel the different sources that Jackson draws from, perhaps more literally than we might guess-- who's to say that the "most conservative organ" that the Patchwork Girl refers to isn't representative of Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein, for example?

Many books are conscious of being written, but I don't think I've ever seen one that was so much so as Patchwork Girl. Which is only just, as few characters are as aware of their own creation or birth as the Patchwork Girl herself.