Female Sexuality In James M. Cain's Mildred Pierce

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Female sexuality has often been a topic of immorality in hardboiled novels. However, in James M. Cain’s Mildred Pierce, female sexuality is a means to get to the top. In order to please her intransigent daughter, the protagonist of the novel decided to put her aptitude for cooking to good use and open up a restaurant. One restaurant turns to three, and it seems that Mildred’s success knows no bounds. All of this occurs, of course, due to Mildred’s tenacity and perseverance, but also because she is willing to use her sexuality as a tool to get the right men to do what she needs them to do, especially in a time period where women and business did not necessarily get spoken of in the same sentence. In fact, the amount of sex that Mildred has and the pleasure she feels during intercourse can be directly traced to the state of her business and how well she is running it. The first instance of Mildred’s budding sexuality helping her with her business is her affair with Wally Burgan. Wally is “one of three gentlemen…who made the original proposition to Bert [Mildred’s husband] which led to Pierce homes Inc. [Bert’s business]”(Cain 25). Wally is a shrewd businessman who is always able to get what he wants, by hook or by crook. He thoroughly understands “the intricacies of real estate deals and cash flow, of business and bank loans, and of relations with …show more content…
Cain’s Mildred Pierce is the perfect example of how a woman’s aptitude to create her own life comes from her ability to have sex freely, and in fact, live her life freely. Mildred is the embodiment of a businesswoman, one who uses the men around her to raise herself to the top without any qualms. In the case of Mildred, however, maternal love overcomes sexual desire, causing Mildred to go back to the life that she always knew. Had Mildred perhaps been more accepting of the fact that Veda was not going to love her and continued her life of sexual and monetary freedom, she would have been a more powerful

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