By: Mathew de Marchie

Moving on is a story about a world where young single women get put into placement homes to be picked out by single men as wives. Human nature in and of it self is a clear-cut subject; “Moving On” by Diane Cook questions this clear cut definition and alters its root much like teaching a dog new tricks. After all, you can’t teach an old dog a new trick.

From the point the women enter the rehabilitation program, to the point where they get chosen and leave, much of that period is nothing but un-charted waters. The possible outcomes are endless yet at the same time there is only one inevitable outcome. Would it be possible to call the journey fait? The whole point of the program is that they decide how you end up. The placement team decides who the buyer is much like a pet store where animals are in little glass walled cages with their lives in a confined space. “Far off, the forest is visible; a shaky line of green from the swaying trees. Through coyotes prowl the barren tract, it is the forest that, to me, seems most menacing. It is so unknown.”(P.47) The use of wording in this sentence is powerful. It describes something simple yet extremely complex. Nothing in that world is per chance. The woman’s every move is controlled; where the final outcome is nothing but a robotic dance. The existence of the unknown creates fears in the women upon entry into the program. Much like a line of code in that program, it is a futile action where even one thing can derail the delicate task that the robot is doing. “But I remind myself that doesn’t matter now. What I prefer is no longer of concern.”(P.46) The very basis of the program lies on the replacement of thought and on dismissal of memory; the women are to erase previous encounters and allow for unknown men to take over their lives and write their story for them. Their lives are reverted to blank screens, much like a computer after a malfunction; where all your work and effort ends up being for not.

Despite being knowledgeable in different things, the main character and the women in the story, if they are somehow widowed or left alone, are required to learn how to be different. The world revolves around how old you are, much like a ripe whiskey but more in the fact that once you get too old you are considered past your best before date and are discarded. The funny thing about how that works itself out is older women are free to live their lives out s they please and are not taken by the placement team if their husband dies. “I felt us quake like small animals that have been discovered somewhere they shouldn’t be and have no time to run, or place to run to.”(P.50) In this passage we see the slight immaturity that the main character displays, and also what the society takes into account when it comes to placement. Here we see that the main character has almost a puppy reaction to seeing the man. She feels such a connection that she feels like she needs to run. The animal primal instinct resurfaces here and makes her act like an animal. She has no control over herself and can be seen acting much like my dog when I catch her up on the bed where she knows she can’t be. This animal behaviour is what the placement team tries to lock away, in order to suppress emotion and teach the women how to act. The one problem with that is that you can’t stop humans from being humans. “I can see men like black stars in their bright rooms.”(P.45) It’s curious to wonder how the women bottled up all the emotions, and how Diane Cook re-invented the contemporary women. She created a world where it’s not ok to be you; but rather you need to be ok with being what someone else wants you to be. A world where you are not judged for your personality and who you are, but rather what you can do and how well you can adapt to new situations.

Many people in the world choose to live out their lives in a very organized and calm manner; what dictates such an action is up for debate. Some psychologists would argue it’s environmental, whereas others will say it’s purely impulsive. What you can’t control is what is instinctual, what we as human beings have largely given up over the course of millions of years of evolution. Our freedom. Sometimes the deepest most distant attributes can all of a sudden breach the surface of thought. “Curiously, I find myself rooting for her.”(P.51) In this very simple phrase, we can find the silent cry for freedom. The simplest of statement shows how the main character is yearning to be un-caged and released into society. Sometimes it does not take much to stir up the animal that rests silently inside us human beings. The environment that the main character is presented with removes her humanity and sections her into her primal instinct, stripping all of who she is and what she has been thought. “I had a picture hidden under my mattress”(P.48) Even when all of society’s structure is trying to reform her, her mind fights back and exposes the deep roots of human beings evolutionary fight for existence.

Diane Cook sculpts the image of the complex they are being housed at as a prison with all the amenities of a house. The freedoms they are allotted while being “rehabilitated” is ironic considering they are under 24/h surveillance and despite feeling free they are not free to think what ever they want. They are told what to think and how to think it. “When the lights pan the wasteland between the pen and the forest”(P.51) The expanse between their out door area and the forest is describes and a wasteland, something that stirs up an image of a world war II image I saw once; a vast expanse of rubble and destruction, where nothing and no one can live or be. Similarly to the caged section the women are being kept when whey are getting there out door time. Surrounded by barbed wire, like the concentration camps in Germany. Not able to leave until chosen by a man, like a turkey being chosen for thanksgiving dinner.

“I picture myself running. My nightgown billowing behind me, my hair loosening from a braid as I speed along. Finally it comes undone and free.”(P.51)

This passage fully describes how they are dressed up to look nice and to follow the propa… I mean pamphlets. After all they are full of useful pointers on you need to live.