Every Time A Woman Nervously Adjusts A Glove In Mary McCarthy's "The Group"

Mary McCarthy’s The Group is about a circle of wealthy white women who slowly come to realize that the 1930s never really worked in the first place, and have no recourse but to twist their gloves about it. At least one of them attempts to see if Lesbianism can solve the problem of The 1930s Never Really Worked, but Lesbianism cannot cure the 1930s, only alleviate symptoms. Men do not twist their gloves in The Group; they casually throw their hats down onto women’s beds without looking to see whether they have landed safely. (Some of the men in The Group have no hats; they are all either Bolsheviks or gay.) Here is every scene in The Group wherein a wealthy, or wealth-adjacent, young white woman twists her gloves, and why:

Attempting To Casually Discern If This Bohemian Wedding Is Working-Class Drag Or If A Former Classmate Is Actually Working-Class

“Paying the driver, smoothing out their gloves, the pairs and trios of young women, Kay’s classmates, stared about them curiously.”

Early-Twenties-Onset Social Anxiety

“Dottie Renfrew was distressed; her gloved hand twisted the pearls that had been given her for her twenty-first birthday.”

Lake Forest-Induced Social Superiority

“Elinor Eastlake was shown in by a waiter, to whom she handed two brown-paper parcels she was carrying in her black kid-gloved hand; she appeared perfectly composed.”

Pre-Abortion Anti-Nuptial Signaling

“Kay and Dottie, who had automatically taken cigarettes out of their cases, replaced them after a survey of the room. There were two other patients waiting, reading Hygeia and Consumers’ Research Bulletin. One, a sallow thin woman of about thirty, with a pair of cotton gloves on her lap, wore no wedding ring, a fact which Dottie silently called to Kay’s attention.”

Quietly Judging A Sexually-Liberated Lady Doctor (And Lady Doctor)

“The doctor waited. ‘Perhaps I can help you, Dorothy. Any techniques,’ she began impressively, ‘that give both partners pleasure are perfectly allowable and natural. There are no practices, oral or manual, that are wrong in love-making, as long as both partners enjoy them.’ Goose flesh rose on Dottie; she knew, pretty well, what the doctor meant, and could not help wondering with horror, if the doctor, as a married woman, practiced what she preached. Her whole nature recoiled. ‘Thank you, doctor,’ she said quietly, cutting the topic off. In her gloved hand, when she was dressed and powdered, she took the Manila envelope the nurse in the anteroom handed her and paid out new bills from her billfold. She did not wait for Kay.”

Communist Rioting In Formalwear

“Helena identified Norine, in the center of the picture, facing the camera, wearing what appeared to be a low white satin evening dress and a jeweled tiara, as though she were in a box at the opera; she had on long white gloves, presumably glacé kid, with the hands rolled back over her wrists. A small inset showed Putnam as he was arraigned in night court; it was hard to tell whether the print was smudged or whether he had a black eye; he was dressed in a tail coat, apparently, but his white tie was missing.”

Manuscript Panic

“He would let her put her coat and gloves on without seeming to notice that she was ready to make her adieux and without a single glance at the desk drawer where, she had discovered, the incoming manuscripts were kept. It was a big drawer, like a bin; lowering herself to pun, Libby called it the loony bin, because the suspense of waiting each time for him to open it drove her crazy. Sometimes she had to remind him, but generally she found that if she waited long enough he remembered. Each time, though, she felt her whole career hanging by a thread for what was probably only a minute by the clock but, measured by her heart’s beat, eternity.”

A Slowly-Dawning Awareness That Lakey Has Become A Lesbian In Europe, That One’s Own Proximity To Lesbianism Must Be Updated Accordingly, And A Sudden Fear That The Baroness Will Now Look Down On You For Not Being A Lesbian

“Even Pokey’s eyes bugged at the quantities of underwear, handkerchiefs, nightgowns, peignoirs, shoes, gloves, all wrapped in snowy tissue paper—not to mention dresses, hats, scarves, woolen coats, silk coats, beautifully folded and in tissue paper too. This impressive array—yet she did not have a single fur coat, Libby reported—made the girls think awkwardly of schedules, formula, laundry, diapers. They could not spend all morning on the pier. As they waited, restlessly tapping their feet (you could not smoke), they realized that the Baroness, who had finished with customs, was waiting too. She seemed to be with Lakey and was not very friendly to the girls, who tried politely to make conversation with her about conditions in Europe. It was Kay who caught on first. Lakey had become a Lesbian. This woman was her man. It occurred to them all that Lakey, who had always been frightening and superior, would now look down on them for not being Lesbians.”