Inspired by Judith Jarvis Thomson’s philosophical thought experiment “The Violinist,” What Happened to Tom is a psychological and philosophical thriller, a horror story that any one of millions of people could, at any moment, experience. Tom, like many men, assumes that since pregnancy is a natural part of being a woman, it’s no big deal: a woman finds herself pregnant, she does or does not go through with it, end of story. But then Tom wakes up to find his body’s been hijacked and turned into a human kidney dialysis machine. For nine months he has to stay connected to Simon, a famous violinist, or Simon will die. Tom finds he is powerless to take legal or medical action to deal with the situation. He loses his girlfriend, his car, his apartment, and eventually his job as an architect. At the end of the novel, he has lost almost everything he holds dear and his life is completely, and irrevocably, derailed, and entwined with that of a violinist who no longer wants to work. Considering this situation analogous to an unwanted pregnancy, What Happened to Tom is ultimately a feminist allegory about women’s reproductive rights.
What People Are Saying
“Peg Tittle’s What Happened to Tom takes a four-decades-old thought experiment and develops it into a philosophical novella of extraordinary depth and imagination. Tittle uses Judith Jarvis Thompson’s famous violinist illustration from her 1971 essay “A Defense of Abortion” as the inspiration for this story of Tom who is kidnapped and surgically attached to a famous violinist. Tittle adds multiple nuances to Thomson’s original scenario, and the novel takes dark, unexpected turns as Tom desperately tries to extract himself from his dire situation. Part allegory, part suspense (perhaps horror) novel, part defense of bodily autonomy rights (especially women’s), Tittle’s book will give philosophers and the philosophically minded much to discuss.” Ron Cooper, author of Hume’s Fork and other philosophical novels as well as Heidegger and Whitehead: A Phenomenological Examination into the Intelligibility of Experience; Professor, College of Central Florida
“This powerful book plays with the gender gap to throw into high relief the infuriating havoc unwanted pregnancy can wreak on a woman’s life. Once you’ve read What Happened to Tom, you’ll never forget it.” Elizabeth Greene, author of Understories and Moving
About the Author
Peg Tittle, feminist, writer, philosopher, is the author of What If…Collected Thought Experiments in Philosophy (2004) and Critical Thinking: An Appeal to Reason (2011). She is also the editor of Should Parents be Licensed? Debating the Issues (2004). Her articles and essays have been published in a number of North American magazines and journals and she has been a columnist for the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, The Philosophers’ Magazine, and Philosophy Now. She is also the author of six screenplays. What Happened to Tom is her first novella. She lives in Sundridge, Ontario.