The Iron Woman

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For the 1916 silent film, see The Iron Woman (film).
First edition (publ. Faber & Faber)

The Iron Woman is the 1993 sequel to the popular Ted Hughes novel The Iron Man. "The Iron Woman has come to take revenge on mankind for its thoughtless polluting of the seas, lakes and rivers" says the introduction to the novel. It references sexism, in that the iron woman exacts her revenge on a seemingly ignorant/uncaring male community (in the waste disposal plant) for polluting the area in which she lives; however, the book is more of an attack on society for the oblivious ways in which for many decades, a vast amount of habitats have been destroyed or on the brink of annihilation. Ted Hughes' novel is an attempt at getting people to be made aware of and respond to this.

The main character, 'Lucy,' finds the Iron Woman in a state of despair and covered in chemicals. After being cleaned (by Lucy), the Iron Woman takes her to see the environment in which she lives. Lucy sympathises with the Iron Woman, watching the animals' painful deaths as more toxic material is poured into the marsh from the local waste-disposal factory. She is angry and wants to save them, but ironically, her dad is one of the factory workers. Lucy contacts Hogarth, the friend of the Iron Man, asking for his help. The Iron Woman is so enraged that she turns all the men in the factory into the swamp creatures, so that they can feel what the animals of the marsh were enduring. They all burp black bubbles of cloud, which the next day, forms the Cloud Spider. "I am the Spider-god of wealth. Wealth. Wealth. The Spider-god of more and more and more and more money. I catch it in my web." The Cloud Spider is taken away by the Space-Bat-Angel-Dragon from the first novel, The Iron Man.

When the Iron Woman turns the men back to their human forms, all their hair is white, as though it has been bleached or they have aged.

The novel is full of symbolism. The snowdrops (representing white, cleanliness, purity) and foxgloves (signifying death, poison and destruction) which the Iron Woman drops during her introduction, are just a small example of the many ways in which Ted Hughes strives to make his point, making the Iron Woman cry "clean me." The Iron Woman is the embodiment of another figure in contrast to the Iron Man, such as the new character of 'Lucy' to contrast with the original character of 'Hogarth'.