When It Changed Study Guide

When It Changed by Joanna Russ

The story is told from the perspective of Janet Evason. It takes place on a human colony on another planet, called Whileaway. 30 generations earlier, a plague killed off all the men and the population now consists only of women, who have figured out how to combine eggs to produce offspring.

It is a largely agricultural society, and the whole range of human behaviors exhibited by men and women on earth are now in evidence within the all-female society. For example, Janet has fought several duels, and girls love to hunt and have adventures. When astronauts from earth arrive, they are bemused by the all-female society, find it quaint, are sure that the women must be missing men, and that the society must be deficient in some way due to the lack of men. Janet doesn't at first understand that she is being treated insultingly, and does not understand the men's amusement.

The men for their part leer at the women and look forward to having children with them. Janet's wife tries to kill the men. Janet stops her, but then that night a part of her regrets doing so. She muses upon how things will change once the men are there.

They told her that they now have equality between the sexes on earth, but she wonders how that can be true, given their casually condescending attitude toward the all-female society of Whileaway, and she fears how their contempt will influence her daughters.

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