English 738T, Spring 2015
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Molly’s Female Agency in Neuromancer: Reading Gibson’s Novel Alongside Haraway and Jackson

Posted by Amanda Gogarty on Thursday, May 21st, 2015 at 2:52 pm

For my last blog post, I would like to examination the physical relationship between Molly and Case in William Gibson’s Neuromancer while keeping in mind Shelley Jackson’s “Stitch bitch” and Donna Haraway’s “Cyborg Manifesto.”  I would also like to suggest that out of the few female characters in the novel, Molly appears to have the most agency.

Case and Molly have a few scenes that reminded me of Jackson and Haraway’s articles.  The first one is when they meet.  Case remembers the “silver lenses [that] seemed to grow from smooth pale skin” and that her nails look “artificial” (Gibson 24).  Immediately, Gibson’s language echoes Haraway’s, giving us the idea that Molly is not entirely human, and Case’s description of her invites the idea of her as a cyborg, which Haraway defines as a “cybernetic organism, a hybrid of a machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction” (291).  Molly definitely seems to fit this description, since she has parts that are both machine and human, and she seems to be much more comfortable situated in the technological world than Case is.

In a second scene between the two, Case asks Molly about her boss, Armitage, and she discloses that the “profile” he has of [Case] is so vivid that it’s as if she knows him, and that she “knows how he is wired” (30).  This can be viewed as an example of Molly’s female agency within the novel, since it seems as though she knows something about Case that he cannot yet know about himself.  Shortly following, Case undergoes an operation and is given a new pancreas, ridding him of his drug dependency.  He is in pain when he awakes, and the only thing that can ease it is having intercourse with Molly, almost as if she has become his new drug to be addicted to (32).  Case proceeds to initiates sex with Molly, an act by which he should gain agency, but this chance is lost when he touches her face and is met with an “unexpected hardness of [her] implanted lenses” (33).  She tells him to stop because she is afraid of “fingerprints” (33).  The word “fingerprints” here provides interesting parallel to Jackson’s discussion of bodies in “Stitch bitch.”  As Jackson states in her article, “We patch a phantom body together out of a cacophony of sense impressions, bright and partial views…the original body is dissociated, porous, and unbiased…the mind, on the other hand…has an almost catatonic obsession with stasis, centrality, and unity.”  Molly’s repeated obsession with bodies (both sexually and due to her prosthetics,) complements Jackson’s.  Whereas Jackson wishes to constantly merge, mutilate and create new bodies through her work with her readers, however, Molly seems reluctant to let Case leave his fingerprints on her.  It is also interesting that Case touches her face, which is presumably human flesh, but her surgically implanted eye lenses prevent her from showing him any emotion.  She can only order him to stop.

Although this is a brief synopsis of Molly’s potential agency in Neuromancer and of how we can read Gibson’s novel in relation to Jackson and Haraway’s articles, the comparisons between the two peaked my curiosity.  Do you think that Molly exhibits any agency in the text?  Does she fit Haraway’s description of a cyborg, or is she different in any way?  How about in relation to Jackson’s article?  Is it plausible to say that Molly’s sexual merging with Case (or refusal of emotion) in any way mirrors or deflects Jackson’s argument?

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