“For my mother, the time of my childhood was the place where the fairly tales failed.” (47) The loss of dreams for Edna has resulted in a loss of dreams and fantasy world for her children. The focus on the little mermaid is appropriate. Just as Edna makes the two girls into the tragic figure of the little mermaid by blaming their father for leaving/not leaving them, Edna continually makes her children into either the tragic figures or the villain by blaming them for her shattered dreams. In actuality, she is the pathetic tragic figure, unable to see how her children have helped her financially. She takes her disappointments and failed dreams and puts them onto the girls, as though it is their fault. Simply due to their existence, Edna often seems annoyed with the existence of her daughters. Kay’s realization of this fact so early in life is the most distressing part of her story. Bearing the weight of this burden takes away the possibility of the children having dreams and fantasies of their own. Their awareness of this bitter reality makes it truly amazing that she titles this story Landscape for a Good Woman.
Both middle and upper class mothers have certainly heard the message throughout their lives that their responsibility is in the caring for and nurturing of their children. This certainly leads to a multitude of tasks above and beyond clothing and feeding, which often result in a loss of freedom for the mother and a sense of enslavement. Breaking out of this pattern which has been expected of women and mothers in particular has been a goal for women for many decades. Being raised in a harsh environment has resulted in Edna naturally having an outlook on life that is quite different from the standard upper middle class belief of the mother being all sacrificing for her children. The emotional ties between mother and child seem to be on the back burner while more immediate needs are tended to. Edna’s standards of what it means to be a good mother are entirely different from those of someone from a different class. She denies the upper-class role and defines motherhood in the only way she is capable of doing so, and is not damned by those around her for the way she raises her children.
Free Essays – Memories and Motherhood in Landscape for a Good Woman
Memories and Motherhood in Landscape for a Good Woman
The relevance and subsequent interpretation of memories as they relate to one’s desire to mother
“. . . refusal to reproduce oneself is a refusal to perpetuate what one is, that is, the way one understands oneself to be in the social world.” — pg. 84
In reading Carolyn Kay Steedman’s Landscape for a Good Woman, two themes took center stage: Memories and Motherhood. As the book unfolds Steedman repeatedly points out that childhood memories are used by individuals for various purposes; rather than objective recollections dominated by facts, she proposes that they are more subjective in nature, likely to alter with time or as circumstances dictate.
Thus, fact has very little relevance, taking a back seat to the history we create for ourselves. “. . . childhood is a kind of history, the continually reworked and re-used personal history that lies at the heart of each present” — pg. 128
Though she examined sociological, political, economic and psychoanalytic issues, one aspect Steedman fails to address is the biological, as in the so-called “biological clock”. Frankly, her argument may benefit from this phenomena. Though women in their teens and early twenties frequently express an emphatic lack of desire for children, citing specifics of their personal histories to support these decisions, years later the same memories are given an opportunity to soften, recede or even disappear altogether. Thus, in light of this altered history, the individual in question feels more at ease reassessing her choices (in light of these memories) and considering motherhood a viable alternative.
“We all return to memories and dreams . . . again and again; the story we tell of our own life is reshaped around them. But the point doesn’t lie there, back in the past, back in the lost time at which they happened; the only point lies in interpretation.” — pg. 5
Another point Steedman only touches on lightly is her sister’s interpretation of the past. Personally, I find it fascinating to discuss childhood events with siblings who participated in the same events. The significance of seemingly unrelated experiences, occurring after the occasion in question, together with personal feelings, frequently cause siblings’ recollections of the same events to differ. In light of Steedman’s work, it is easier now to understand how children, raised by the same parents, offered the same opportunities and sharing the same historical events, may end up with radically different memories.