The Girl on the Plane by Mary Gaitskill


I’m a little behind on posting about my readings. Snow, electricity, and whatnot have been delaying everything in my life right now. I read this short story for class about a week ago (I believe the reading was due last Tuesday).

I actually really liked this story, despite what it was actually about. I’ve never actually been on a plane, but I’ve been on plenty of train/subway rides to know how awkward it is to sit next to a complete stranger and be unsure what to talk about if you even talk at all.

At the beginning of the story, I kind of liked the narrator, even though he was sort of a jerk. However, as the story progressed I felt really bad for the women in his life and couldn’t believe what he did to Patty, embarrassing her and then raping her, even if he thought that he wasn’t really raping her.

On a sidenote – that actually says a lot about rape culture, because clearly the girl in this story had been given some type of date rape drug and then man after man continued to have sex with her while she was basically passed out, and then the narrator thought it was okay for him to have sex with her after all of this because she didn’t seem like she was refusing anyone. It’s really terrible, and it upset me that this guy still didn’t fully realize that what he did was very wrong and that he did in fact rape this girl who was in love with him.

Anyway, the story was very strange and definitely shocking. Something that we talked about in class was the way that Mary Gaitskill used flashbacks to tell the story. My professor wanted to know if we thought the use of flashbacks was successful when, in all honesty, she could have just written the story about the narrator and Patty without the whole storyline with the girl on the plane.

I think that it was necessary to tell the story in flashbacks because the narrator needed that woman on the plane to trigger his memory of Patty. The girl on the plane also opened up to him about her alcoholism and that allowed him to remember getting drunk and pushing Patty away and drinking and raping her.

Overall, the story was interesting and definitely something different to read. I’m not exactly sure why all the stories that my professor assigns have some sort of sexual storyline, but maybe we’ll move away from that eventually.

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