Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts

Mary McCarthy

Luca Pellegrini 

Bill Russell: Basketball and Race in Boston

Mary McCarthy and the Search for Female Autonomy in 1960s New York

Mary McCarthy focuses all of her novels, as well as her memoir, on one universal theme: the search for female autonomy. Females lack autonomy because they live in a world dominated by men and are constantly held to unrealistic standards. As a child, McCarthy was abused by her uncle, both emotionally and sexually, causing her to question her purpose in life, as well as examine the value of women as a whole in society. The men in McCarthy's novels similarly assert their dominance over their partners in order to gain control. Women are victimized, and as a result their concept of self worth is diminished. For instance, Kay, of The Group, is married to Harald, and following an argument about his latest screenplay, she calls the police to report domestic abuse, only to have Harald institutionalize her for mental illness. In this way, in an attempt to regain control, the women of Mary McCarthy’s literary works must navigate oppressive relationships and defy the societal beliefs that women are the inferior gender.

Similar to the oppression of women in McCarthy's novels, Boston Celtic’s player Bill Russell faced racial discrimination throughout his career. Despite multiple accounts of racism, Russell never saw himself as a victim. Instead, he was confident and dignified, ultimately defying societal expectations and stereotypes of black men. He played basketball in a time when there were no black players in the game. During the 1950s to 1960s, Bostonians did not show admiration for the game of basketball. The Celtics won eleven championships, but were still unable to fill seats at the Boston Garden because fans did not want to watch black athletes play. It was a difficult time in the city’s history of race relations. Russell was actually quite vocal about civil rights, further alienating him from Boston fans. While not loved by Bay Staters at the time, Russell nonetheless elevated the game of basketball, set an example for black players to follow, and is known as one of the greatest basketball players of all time.

Major Works Consulted:

Goudsouzian, Aram. King of the Court: Bill Russell and the Basketball Revolution Berkeley:University of California, 2011.
McCarthy, Mary. A Charmed Life. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich,1992.
---.Memoirs of a Catholic Girlhood. London: Royal National Library for the Blind, 1969.
Shaughnessy, Dan. Ever Green: The Boston Celtics: A History in the Words of Their Players, Coaches, Fans & Foes, from 1946 to the Present.New York: St. Martin’s, 1991.
Photo Credit: Brown, Jane. "The Group by Mary McCarthy.” The Guardian. N.p., 28 Nov. 2009. Web. 03 Mar. 2017.