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A Feminist Perspective of The Good Mother

A Feminist Perspective of The Good Mother

The Good Mother is carefully structured to make the reader identify strongly with the narrator Anna. The story begins with a close look at the intensely loving relationship between Anna and her daughter. We then learn some of Anna’s family history and personal background which prepares us for the stark contrast made by her relationship with Leo. Though there are hints, as Anna relates her story, that Leo is now a part of her past, the reasons and details are withheld from the reader so that we feel as shocked as Anna by the phone call from her ex-husband, saying that he is going to fight for custody of Molly and why. The suspense during the court battle is sustained by the terse descriptions which focus on the facts of the events and the words spoken during the interviews and trial. Because of this reserve, although, like Anna, we fear that she will lose Molly, we are still stunned by the verdict and empathize with her feelings of loss, helplessness, and rage.

I think the book is very well written and moving. But I am left wondering why Miller wrote this involving book with such a bittersweet ending, one that’s much more sad than sweet. Did she simply want to depress us or to give us a portrait of someone we should feel sorry for? There’s not much point in that, of course, so I doubt it. Was the book intended as some sort of moral lesson? The narrator clearly relates her own behavior to her past and her family, but I don’t think Anna can be read as either a total victim or as a person who is fully to blame for her own fate as a result of having always made completely informed choices; she was certainly not making informed choices as a child or adolescent. Nor do I think we are supposed to fully blame Anna’s family for her behavior; Anna herself says that she “had misread all the signals” (p. 129) from her mother’s overwhelming family.

Maybe Miller’s intent was to make the reader ponder the reasons for a person feeling the way that Anna feels about herself. Why is she so full of guilt and shame and self-hatred? Like Ursula who asks Anna why she didn’t fight harder to keep her daughter and Leo, I wonder why Anna responds the way that she does to events throughout her life.

The Importance of Birds in Virginia Woolf’s The Waves

The Importance of Birds in Virginia Woolf’s The Waves

To emphasize her viewpoint in The Waves, Woolf employs a distinctive style. She interlocks the dramatic monologues of six characters at successive stages in their lives to tell her story; and prefaces each of the sections with a descriptive passage of sun and waves through a single day. In these passages descriptions of the sun, the sea, the plants, and the birds make implicit comparisons with the characters’ speeches. The actions of the birds in the descriptive passages most strikingly parallel the developing consciousness of the characters, exemplified by Susan.

The birds’ developing singing abilities and early explorations parallel Susan’s experiences in childhood and adolescence. Initially the birds chirp independently. Later, “the birds [sing] their blank melody outside” (8). Like the other children in section one, Susan states her observations without integrating them with those of her playmates: “I see a slab of pale yellow . . . spreading away until it meets a purple stripe”; “a caterpillar is curled in a green ring . . . notched with blunt feet” (9). Later, Susan speaks about herself. She thinks in concrete terms: “it is black, I see; it is green, I see; I am tied down with single words.” Polarization marks her emotions: “I love and I hate” 16). The jealousy she feels about Ginny kissing Louis demonstrates Susan’s primal lack of sophistication. Susan reveals that she will not be afraid of life and will experience it fully: “I am not afraid of heat, nor of the frozen winter” (25). The sun rises higher; the birds occasionally join their voices in a wild strain, grow silent, and break asunder. Susan goes away to school. Intensely homesick, s…

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…urely feminine” (248). He admits that he loved her because she cried with him after Ginny kissed Louis; because her primitivism appealed to the poet in him.

Thus Woolf shows how life resembles the sea: the waves, stages in development, provide a body of knowledge to make sense of the past and to guide future decisions. The sea, a microcosm, represents the earth, and the birds symbolize mankind. Woolf realizes that human behavior shows predictability and may be classified in several ways. Susan represents one possible classification, and Woolf ties the birds’ external patterns to Susan’s inner reality to demonstrate unity of body and psyche.

Works Cited

Coleman, Elliott, ed. Poems of Byron, Keats, and Shelley. Garden City, N.Y.: International Collectors Library, 1967.

Woolf, Virginia. The Waves. New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1959.

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