THE IRON WOMAN by Ted Hughes


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A gigantic Iron Woman rises out of a swamp in order to destroy a factory that is poisoning rivers and killing fish. She befriends Lucy, whose father works at the factory, and who is therefore anxious to find a less violent way to stop the pollution of the environment. Lucy enlists the help of the Iron Man (from The Iron Giant, 1988). He and Iron Woman turn the men who work at the factory into fish so they will learn what it's like to live in poisoned water. The scenes of transformation are followed by a bewildering chain of supernatural events that is finally resolved in a utopian ending (in a place where industrial waste turns magically into fuel). At the service of a primitively moralizing theme, Hughes puts a sophisticated descriptive apparatus capable of producing subtle atmospheric effects and delicate metaphors. Punctuating the novel are Moser's black-and-white engravings, a welcome addition to Hughes's verbal images, but with few pictures and even fewer conversations, the book makes for slow reading. The plot is dwarfed by extended metaphors that constitute the central thread of the novel (the Iron Woman rising from the mud, the men turning into fish). These images are evocative enough, but the bluntness with which they all point to the same unimaginative moral--protect the environment!--makes them hard to swallow.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1995
Page count: 103pp
Publisher: Dial