Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts

Louise  O'Neill

Robbi  Gingras 

Woodstock: The Soundtrack to Free Love

Louise O’Neill: The Loss of Female Identity

Contemporary novelist Louise O’Neill writes as a feminist, critiquing the treatment of women, who are not granted the same opportunities as men and are often objectified based on their physical appearance. In this way, O’Neill provides commentary on the ways in which women have been emotionally, socially, and physically abused within a patriarchal society. Throughout her three novels, Almost Love, Asking For it, and Only Ever Yours, the female characters experience a transformation, beginning as confident young women, but ultimately losing their identity. O’Neill portrays patriarchies throughout her novels that condition her female characters to take the blame for the sexual aggression of dysfunctional men. The possessive and overbearing male characters in these novels strip the female protagonists of their identities. Because of the obligation that women feel to fulfill a man’s needs, they ultimately succumb to the pressures of the patriarchal dystopias in which they live.

In the same way that O’Neill’s female characters lose themselves and search for a new identity, the people of the 1960s used the Woodstock Music and Art Fair as an opportunity to reinvent themselves and society. Those who attended Woodstock were associated with bare feet, long hair, flower accessories, communal living, free love, and drug use, specifically LSD. Yet Woodstock was more than such stereotypes; it represented peace, love and changing the world through openness and communication. It was a symbol of the unification that the country needed during an era of violence and war. People of all ages, races, and cultures made their way to Woodstock, New York seeking a sense of unification and change. The diversity of those who attended the music festival illustrated the idea that people from all backgrounds could coexist in peace. The three days of music thus became a potent symbol of empowerment and transformation. The nearly half a million souls who battled traffic, rain, mud and other hardships to come together in August of 1969, discovered how strong individual voices can be when joined together in musical harmony.

Major Works Consulted:

Makower, Joel, Michael Lang and Joel Rosenman. Woodstock: The Oral History. 40th Anniversary Ed. Albany: SUNY Press, 2009.
O'Neill, Louise. Almost Love. New York: Quercus, 2018.
---. Asking for It. New York: Quercus, 2016. Tiber, Elliot and Tom Monte. Taking Woodstock. Garden City Park, NY: Square One, 2007.
Photo Credit: Lang, Ronan. “Louise O'Neill.” The Bookseller.