Mattie is at a loss as to what to do. Her editor rejected her story outright, leaving her with nothing. If she wants any hope of getting her story published, she has to find some way to verify the source of the poll.
Kevin Spence is the man to talk to for more information about opinion polls. Naturally, Mattie knows that he’s the source that she needs. She talks to him about the leaked post, and Spence is not happy at all. He’s clearly not the one that leaked the information, and he could be on the hook if the general public sees the leaked poll. He’d be on the hook if the Party suffers because of the leak, too. While he wants nothing to do with this story, Mattie does reassure him that she believes that he wasn’t the leaker. He does tell her that the list of people that had access to that information is pretty short. Mattie leaves it at that, and she doesn’t seem to plan to contact Spence much more.
The book isn’t explicit in who left Mattie the poll, but I had a hunch at this point. It’s not too hard to guess that Francis Urquhart might be behind this. But that’s just speculation. Funny that Mattie never thinks to approach Urquhart. They seem to be getting pretty close, so It’s surprising that she wouldn’t think to go to her friendliest contact in the government for information on a leaked poll from his own party.
Meanwhile, O’Neil tries to convince Penny to go out for “just dinner” with Patrick Woolton, one of their colleagues in the Party. She doesn’t want to. That should be the end of it, right? She doesn’t want to go on the date, so O’Neil lets it go. I wish. He insists, ignoring her protests and badgering her into going out to “just dinner.” Even though Penny doubts that it’s going to stay “just dinner”, putting her in a situation where she’ll be pressured to go outside of her comfort zone. But O’Neil just ignores her boundaries so that he can do Urquart’s bidding.
I haven’t really addressed it so far, but Dobbs uses an interesting bit of symbolism in House of Cards. I’ve noticed it before, and it happened again here. Dobbs uses nudity to symbolize vulnerability and helplessness. The first time I noticed this symbol is when Mattie’s story was rejected. When she pitches the story, she’s only wearing a towel, having not even delayed long enough to put on some clothes. When her editor yells at her, her towel falls to the ground. She put herself in a vulnerable position and is left feeling exposed and helpless.
Later on, O’Neil barges in on Penny while she’s completely naked in her hotel room. Before he even opens his mouth, he’s putting Penny in a vulnerable and exposed position. And despite her protests, she is ultimately helpless against O’Neil’s demands.
It’s certainly…interesting that both of these incidents happen to two of the very few women in this book. I doubt that it’s a coincidence. As interesting as this book is, I’m not sure if it shows a reflection of Dobbs’ own views on women in professional settings or an unfortunate picture of the way that women are treated in male-dominated professional settings. It could be bits of both. I don’t want to make any assumptions about Dobbs’ character, however. I have no way of knowing what was going through his head decades ago when he wrote this book. Still, regardless of intention, I can viscerally feel the exposure and discomfort both times these women were suddenly thrust into the most vulnerable of positions.