Relationships with men

Joy tries to establish an identity for herself in relation to men. There are four main men who she has relationships with:

  • Joy and Paul start a relationship at school. She attempts to define their relationship through cooking and homemaking. He looks to define it in terms of sex. As a result the relationship falls apart
  • Joy has an ongoing sexual relationship with ex-pupil, David. They get drunk and have sex when he visits her on a Sunday.
  • Michael keeps his affair with Joy secret until his wife finds out. They move in together but the relationship is cut short by Michael's death
  • Tony is Joy's boss at the betting shop. He flirts with her and takes her to dinner before pressuring her to have sex

Within the main timscale of the novel, Joy has sexual relationships with Tony and David. Both men take advantage of Joy’s vulnerability. Tony's motivation seems clear and while David makes some attempt to support Joy, any relationship they have is based on his timetable and needs.

For David’s Sunday visits she goes through an elaborate bathing and beautification process. She says Maybe I will be embraced, entered, made to exist. However both these men fail to define Joy because they do not see her as a rounded person to be listened to and understood.

Joy takes on a passive role, and seems to have little active say in defining her relationships with men. This is true of her relationships with Mr Peach and the doctors and psychiatrists she comes into contact with. They take decisions about her. She seems ill prepared either to assert herself or get answers from them.