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Notes (2) on We the Living

Detail from
Leda and Zeus (as a Swan), ''El Prado'' Museum, Madrid. Photo by Alejandro Bárcenas). Source: Wikipedia (User: Caracas1830; distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 License). Reference: Kira and Andrei make love beneath a painting of Leda and the Swan in Part Two, Chapter 1.

Following notes on We the Living contain synopsis of chapters for those interested in further study of the novel.

Sexual Situations in We the Living


Total number of chapters: 34 (17 in either Part)

Chapter 9 (Part I), pp.112-3: Kira’s “first time”; she submits to Leo

Chapter 10 (Part I), pp.121: Kira’s second time; she has come to Leo in his apartment; “He threw her across the bed”

Chapter 11 (Part I), pp.126-7 [general description of routine]: When they were alone…[Compare this with the “joyless sex” on pp.195-6, which signifies the ultimate loss caused by poverty]

Chapter 12 (Part I), pp.148-9: the mattresses at the end of the party; Leo and Kira (we don’t know if they made love); Vava’s lipstick smeared on her chin in the morning

Chapter 15 (Part I), pp.186-7: Anecdote in the gossip at Kira’s workplace

Chapter 15 (Part I), pp.195-6: “Without response”; Kira fails to feel anything when Leo pleads for sex; they are tired and he is weak

Chapter 16 (Part I), p.208: Leo is kissing Vava; Kira doesn’t react—“I understand” (p.210)

Chapter 16 (Part I), p.217: “Because”: an unknown man and woman in the basement

Chapter 17 (Part I), p.221: Andrei makes love to Kira (prostitution)

Chapter 1 (Part II), p.237: Kira makes love to Andrei under the painting of Leda and the Swan (prostitution)

Chapter 4 (Part II), pp.277-9: Communal sex, culminating in the copulation of Sonia and Pavel Syerov.

Chapter 5 (Part II), p.293: At the end of a party, Andrei asks Kira is she is too tired to go to his place, and she says, “No…” The implication is that they go to his place after this and have sex.

Chapter 5 (Part II), p.294: Leo initiates lovemaking with Kira after she returns from Andrei’s place (she has two men the same night)

Chapter 7 (Part II), p.312: Leo makes love to Kira: “He approaches her and his hand closed over her throat and he jerked her head back to hold her lips to his. There was a contemptuous tenderness in his movement, and a command…”

Chapter 9 (Part II), p.344: Andrei and Kira—purification by fire: “He was bending her backward, so that the locks of her hair, tumbling down, looked red in the glow of the fire…” (Purification by fire appears again on p.410 as the final motif before Andrei’s suicide)

Chapter 9 (Part II), p.350: Leo and Kira (she has two men the same night again): She has to pick up Leo from a drunken party after she returns from Andrei. “He was smiling, his arrogant smile on a face that remained incredibly beautiful…”

Chapter 11 (Part II), p.365: The previous night, Leo and Kira have had sex: “a night such as her first one.” Consequently she finds herself unable to get turned on by Andrei and asks him to take her to a public place instead of staying at her home. Hence it should be obvious that her physical relationship with Andrei, whatever other noble motives it may have had, was also a consequence of Leo’s physical and mental weakness. It ended when Leo took her with as much aggression as he had shown on the first night. Deep down within her Kira is just an animal whose volition remains indifferent to reason.

Chapter 17 (Part II), p.440: Citizen Ivan Ivanov (Kira’s assassin), when he was fifteen, “lured the neighborhood grocer’s daughter into a vacant lot and raped her. She was twelve years old, with a chest as flat as a boy’s and she wined shrilly. He made her promise not to tell anyone, and he gave her fifteen kopeks and a pound of sugar candy.” Rand wants this rape to appear disgusting (unlike the rapes committed by her heroes) and she hopes to do so by specifying three details: (a) the girl didn’t have well-formed breasts – and this would at least make it disgusting from the perspective of a Rand heroine; (b) the victim whined – unlike Rand heroines who remain silent while they are being raped (according to some ancient laws, a woman’s verbal protest is the legal proof required to establish the offence of rape against her aggressor); (c) money was received by a woman of the working class (which makes it simple prostitution as compared to the “temple prostitution” which happens when a Rand heroine receives material gains from illicit or sex or even rape).

Source: Personal notes of Khurram Ali Shafique

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