“The Black Box” By Jennifer Egan

A Review of a Unique Literary Piece

Jennifer Egan is famous for her notable novels. “The Invisible Circus”, which was published in 1995 (Leggett, “The Invisible Circus by Jennifer Egan”), became a movie starring Cameron Diaz in 2001. Also, her most recent novel, published in 2010, “A Visit from A Goon Squad”, has received the Pulitzer Prize in 2011 (“Jennifer Egan”). Aside from all of Egan’s essentially successful novels, there is one particular story where she has incorporated a whole new format of literature. She has completely disregarded the traditional literary structure and created her own Twitter Fiction story called “The Black Box”.  

“The Black Box” is a story that revolves around the narrator, who is an American volunteer spy. Her duties include obtaining important data from a terrorist, even if it means risking her life. The usage of technology hints that the story takes place in the future. She uses advanced materials, such as a hidden microphone and a microchip, which are crucial to her mission. In addition to her gadgets, the narrator has the most effective weapon of all, herself (Egan. “Jennifer Egan’s Black Box”).

This patriotic spy uses herself as an advantage against terrorists. She strategically uses a combination of seduction and innocence. “The Black Box” shows how women are portrayed as objects who are valued according to their appearance. Women in the story compete against each other to become a man’s ‘beauty’ using their looks (Egan. “Jennifer Egan’s Black Box”). I strongly believe that this story evidently compares the expected role of a woman to the reality of a woman’s dominance.   

I have confidence that this story deeply connects to the modern culture and the changing views of women. Because of stereotypes, women are perceived as innocent, weak, and most importantly, inferior to men. However, the narrator illustrates heroism throughout the story by using society’s portrayal of women to complete her mission. Apparently, the essential ‘ingredients’ for a woman to create a successful impression to males are “giggles; bare legs; shyness” (Egan. “Jennifer Egan’s Black Box”). With that being said, I also find it offensive because in order to save a country, a woman must sexualize herself to manipulate and gain the enemy’s trust.  I admire how the story is about a woman who is willing to sacrifice her life to save her country, but I dislike how she did so. A woman can be a hero without having to sexualize herself. I have respect for the narrator because her job is really difficult and completely voluntary. However, a woman should not feel the need to sexualize herself just to complete a mission. Overall, it is important to me how this story can strengthen the confidence of women of all ages by showing that they can be heroic figures as well. Nevertheless, women of all ages should also know that they do not need to sexualize themselves, in order to become a hero.

“The Black Box” has been written in a unique format that is rarely used by novelists. In my opinion, if the story was written as a novel rather than a set of tweets, it would not have made the same, powerful impact. I found it interesting how each part of the story was written relatively similar to a quote. Most of the tweets were broad, so it was easier for the audience to relate to the story, portion by portion. Although it was difficult for me to adapt to the format at first, I thought it was a brilliant way for readers to interact with the story. The story was written in a “you” narration, which I felt that I was being placed in the narrator’s shoes.  Also, people have the option to engage with the most relatable tweets. They can either ‘like’ it, re-tweet it, or even comment on it! I would definitely recommend this empowering story to a teenage girl or an adult who may be more familiarized with Twitter. To me, this story is a five-star read.


CBC Books. “Jennifer Egan’s Black Box.” Storify, CBC Books, 2012, https://storify.com/cbcbooks/jennifer-egan-s-black-box. Accessed 05 Feb. 2017.

“Jennifer Egan.” Jennifer Egan, http://jenniferegan.com/photosbio/. Accessed 05 Feb. 2017.

Leggett, Robin. “The Invisible Circus by Jennifer Egan.” The Book Bag, http://www.thebookbag.co.uk/reviews/index.php?title=The_Invisible_Circus_by_Jennifer_Egan. Accessed 05 Feb. 2017.