The Edible Woman

The Edible Woman Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

The Woman-Cake (Symbol)

The cake that Marian bakes at the end to determine whether Peter is destroying and consuming her symbolizes a woman who is totally passive and allows herself to be taken advantage of and devoured by a man. The pink cake, baked in the shape of a woman, is a physical representation of Marian, herself; however, when she offers it to Peter—an action that revokes passivity, since she, herself, offers the body to him rather than simply letting it be taken advantage of—he is repelled by the explicit nature of his own desire to consume female bodies, and leaves Marian, embarrassed.

Food (Motif)

Food appears throughout the novel as a representation of life. Peter eats steak at dinner, which repels Marian as she watches him execute the same action she subconsciously feels he is doing to her—eating her, devouring her, erasing her personhood. Slowly, Marian loses the ability to eat food herself. Food appears over and over again, with Marian growing more and more disgusted by it in a variety of settings, like the office Christmas party, where food comes to symbolize women's aging and their loss of value to society when they lose their standard beauty.

Laundromat (Symbol)

The laundromat is where Duncan goes to escape his graduate studies. It is methodical and predictable; when he compares Marian to the laundromat, and says that she fulfills the same need for him, he implies that she is also predictable and monotonous. The laundromat is a symbol of what Duncan seeks in Marian: that is, routine and comfort—not her actual self, but someone who is an escape.

Ainsley's pregnancy (Allegory)

Ainsley's pregnancy reveals the inescapable nature of female gender roles, as well as providing a cynical look at women's own desires to escape these roles. Although Ainsley first proclaims that she wishes to become pregnant and raise a child independently, she then completely revokes this desire and begins to furiously seek out a father for her child (first Len, then Fish). Ainsley begins the novel as a staunch advocate for women's independence, but ends as another one of the women who finds peace in marriage and standard female social roles.

Duncan and Peter's apartments (Symbol)

Duncan and Peter's apartments symbolize their respective values and the role they play in Marian's life. Peter's is orderly but sterile, and Marian feels disconnected from it. Duncan's, on the other hand, is dark and disorderly, bringing about a feeling of illicit chaos and emphasizing how Marian's relationship with Duncan is unclean, breaking the expectation of her engagement to Peter.

The Pension Plan (Symbol)

Mrs. Brogue, Marian's supervisor, signs Marian up for a pension plan that Marian can't refuse, even though she doesn't want the plan. Marian is annoyed by this, but is unable to get rid of the plan. The imposition of the plan, and the way that the plan is forced upon Marian without any feedback from her or thought for what she woud want, is a symbol for the larger lack of agency Marian has in her life beneath the institutions she is a part of.