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Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin
The 1960's brought a tremendous amount of awareness to American culture. The ideals of the previous decade were challenged, such as the roles of traditional family values, social morality, and religious practice. With controversies like the war in Vietnam and a newly awakened sense of self and identity, one might argue that the sixties was the decade that America redefined what it was to be innocent. Published in 1967, Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin implies what is believed to be pure is often corrupt, and that the horrors of deception, betrayal, and exploitation often come from the most unexpected of places.
The novel opens with Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse, a hopeful young couple. Guy, a rising professional actor, financially supports his wife as she, in turn, maintains the household and encourages her husband on his own path. Just as Guy harbors ambitions of success and fame, so too does Rosemary long for the chance at motherhood. From early in the novel, it is clear that Guy’s career dominates both of their lives. Through their young marriage, Rosemary maintains the friendship of an elderly male father figure, the esteemed and compassionate Hutch. Guy’s mere tolerance of Rosemary’s friendship based on the possibility of his own personal gain is an example of his self-centered nature and his seeming lack of interest in Rosemary’s own life - opposite of Rosemary's investment and selflessness in regards to her husband.
The couple enters into a lease on the Bramford apartment building, a move that Hutch warns against due to the building’s dark history. Regardless, the dream apartment fits the young couple’s growing needs. As Guy continues to busy himself with his work, Rosemary decorates, prepares the apartment, longs for a child, and oversees the household duties in solitude. On a trip to the basement laundry room, Rosemary meets Terry Gionoffrio, a doomed young woman who is being supported by Rosemary’s seemingly kind neighbors, the Castevets.
The Castevets have no real interest in Terry’s well-being; their only interest lies in her fertility and her ability to become pregnant and carry the spawn of evil. Terry eventually realizes the Castevets’ dark puprose and the reason for the desired pregnancy and either jumps from the seventh story window or is murdered; Levin never clarifies. On the evening of Terry’s death, the Woodhouses meet the Castevets, an elderly couple whose style is as quirky as it is gaudy. Their flamboyancy hides an underlying darkness. The portal to Rosemary’s womb rests in the moral weaknesses of her husband, who practically gives her away for the promise of a better career. Undoubtedly, this “Guy” is the epitome of the selfish, dominant male which advocates of women’s rights would consider detrimental to the movement for the social equality of women everywhere.
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