Magazines and maxims


Joy frequently consults women’s magazines for advice. These are attractive to Joy because they suggest the possibility of change she so desperately craves.

But they set up expectations that Joy has not been able to reach. They contain conflicting messages. They present an idealised idea of what a woman should be:

  • Diet for a firmer new you!
  • How do the royals keep looking good?
  • Kiss me Quick Lips - we show you how!

The underlying message is that women should be physically attractive to men. They link attractiveness to weight. But at the same time they encourage women to focus on food:

  • Baked Alaska - new style
  • Making the most of Summer's late harvest
  • Our Best Ever Chocolate Cake

The magazines also contain messages telling women to be more independent:

  • Tough Talking from Women who’ve made it.

Together these headlines set up a set of conflicting messages about how women should be. Joy cannot measure up to these and they add to her sense of inadequacy.


Closely linked to these magazine headlines are the maxims Joy believes in. The appear as clipped, neat phrases such as:

The More Something Hurts, the More it Can Teach Me

These phrases are capitalised in Joy's notebook. This suggests the authority she regards them with. However, Joy herself is aware that she should not follow these messages blindly. She realises that she should have noted:

Beware the Maxims

Even internally Joy experiences a constant struggle between conflicting ideas.