The Question:

What impact does family have during the different stages of our lives?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Twisted Love

Family tends to be the main force in shaping a child, in molding them into the person they will grow up to be. But what happens when a family is disconnected and unloving? What happens when a mother kills her own daughter only for her two sons to run away? Sethe’s life is not one her children would ever really be able to relate to. She was a slave and they were able to escape, she tried to avoid love and they craved love, she was a killer and they were dead. In chapter three of Toni Morrison’s Beloved, the narrator explains, "To Sethe, the future was a matter of keeping the past at bay. The 'better life' she believed she and Denver were living was simply not that other one." This is also why she killed Beloved, to give her a better life and protect her from love and hurt. Denver too, has been protected from these humanistic feelings as she first heard of her sister’s murder from a boy at school. Now, I can’t say that I would ever be able to tell my daughter that I killed her sister, but Denver never seemed to learn about life itself. She has no friends and her relationship with her mother is not based on love and concern. Beloved, on the other hand, still acts as a baby. She is constantly in need of her mother’s love and attention. Neither of these girls are capable of leading a normal, independent life and the only common factor in their lives is that of their mother’s twisted protection.
In this novel, Sethe is a likeable character, but her ideas are perverse. In chapter 21 Denver says, "All the time, I'm afraid the thing that happened that made it all right for my mother to kill my sister could happen again. I don't know what it is, I don't know who it is, but maybe there is something else terrible enough to make her do it again. I need to know what that thing might be, but I don't want to. Whatever it is, it comes from outside this house, outside the yard, and it can come right on in the yard if it wants to. So I never leave this house and I watch over the yard, so it can't happen again and my mother won't have to kill me too.” She is genuinely scared that her mother might try and kill her. What kind of relationship is that? This fear of her mother’s protection pulls them apart and has shaped Denver into the woman she is today. Beloved, has not had a life to develop. She is a ghost of the dead child and has never had the chance to grow and develop any sort of relationships. What I find most interesting though is the ability these three have to overcome death and brokenness and come together and love. Chapter 22 shows us their connection through this quotation, "I am Beloved and she is mine. I see her take flowers away from leaves she puts them in a round basket the leaves are not for her she fills the basket she opens the grass I would help her but the clouds are in the way how can I say things that are pictures I am not separate from her there is no place where I stop her face is my own and I want to be there in the place where her face is and to be looking at it too a hot thing." These family members are able to conquer their hurt and become one family again. Death is powerful, but a family’s love has proven to be even more so.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Childlike Honesty

“I was listening, and I could hear that I was being judged intelligent. But I couldn’t quite understand how an ordinary man’s good qualities could become crushing accusations against a guilty man” (100).
In The Stranger, Albert Camus presents the character, Meursault, as having childlike honesty. He seems not to have the capacity to lie or understand lies. This section when Meursault is being tried for the murder of the Arab draws many parallels to a child’s reaction to evil in the world. I believe that Meursault’s life with his mother was one in which lies were not told. The truth was all that was necessary and nothing beyond that. The two of them ran out of things to say to each other because they already knew the truth.
Meursault is a rather misunderstood character. The way in which he goes about his life, not caring about much of anything, is perceived in our culture as obscure and worrisome. This, however, is exactly what Camus was trying to illustrate in his novel. Albert Camus states in a preface to his novel that “…[Meursault] is foreign to the society in which he lives…And this is why some readers have been tempted to look upon him as a piece of social wreckage.” Camus raises the question of how Meursault refuses to play the game of society to which the answer is simply: he refuses to lie. I believe this principle is one Meursault obtained from his Maman. We, as readers, do not know much about their relationship, but I do not believe it is entirely fair to state that he did not care for his mother. After all, she raised him and helped him become the man he came to be. This relationship may have been a reflection of Camus’s relationship with his own mother. As a deaf woman, she could not hear lies and therefore Camus could not tell her lies. Lies are completely verbal and cannot be acted out which allowed for complete honesty, which is exactly how Meursault refused to play the game.

An Extraordinary Son

“It’s two months since I last had a talk with you by letter, which has distressed me and even kept me awake at night, thinking…You know how I love you; you are all we have to look to, Dounia and I, you are our all, our one hope, our one stay. What a grief it was to me when I heard that you had given up the university some months ago…” (24).
Raskolnikov’s relationship with his mother and sister has led me to believe there is more to the story than we find out. It seems as though Raskolnikov was possibly his family’s ticket out of whatever rut they were stuck in or perhaps just to a better life. His mother sent him off so that he could pursue his studies and he continued that even further by tutoring to bring in income. This plan, however, did not seem to please Raskolnikov and he completely abandoned that way of life. His mother addresses in the letter she writes him that she is disappointed that he decided to give up the university, but goes on to apologize for not being able to provide him with more roubles. This odd relationship in which it seems that Raskolnikov’s mother and sister depend on him, but do everything they can to save him when he fails them puzzles me. What is so great about this man anyway? He wrote an article on all the exceptions an extraordinary man possesses in society to the point that they have the right to kill. We then see him kill two innocent women and wonder what possessed him.
I believe that this relationship between Raskolnikov and his family has possibly led to his initial belief that he is an extraordinary man. Though not all this information is presented in the text, I believe Raskolnikov’s mother to be very doting of her son. So much so, that even when he disappoints her and lets her down, she is willing to use all her resources to make sure he is taken care of. There is a point in one’s life that they must go out on their own and learn some responsibility and how to take care of themselves and others for a change and I believe Raskolnikov to have been denied of this opportunity. The early and constant doting by his mother has caused him not only to be unsuccessful in his own life, but has involuntarily led him to destroy two other lives in murder as well as the lives of those he most deeply cares about such as Sonia, Dounia, and his mother.