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Essay/Term paper: Sarah jeannette duncan"s a mother in india - victorian men create monstrous victorian women

Essay, term paper, research paper:  English Papers

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Sarah Jeannette Duncan"s A Mother in India

Patriarchal Victorian Men Create Monstrous Victorian Women

706 Words

A Mother in India, as a story depends on the facade of appearance and the reality of emotional abandonment within a male dominated & Victorian society. Duncan"s point is that Victorian men create monstrous Victorian women. Relationships of any emotional worth are rendered impossible between Helena and her daughter Cecily because of a life long separation imposed by the father. It is impossible for Helena to be Cecily"s emotional or spiritual mother because Helena is not emotionally equipped to be anything else other than a servant to her husband. Her life has been pre-arranged by a series of male allowances and dictates. Helena and Cecily"s relationship must be emotionally void to work within the shallow, materialistic pre-arrangement of their lives. Helena has nothing to offer her daughter but the emptiness that she"s acquired over her lifetime.

Helena has spent her life in an emotional vacuum. When Helena is forced to draw on emotional experience for her daughter"s sake she finds immature childish emotions are all she has. Cecily is as a doll to Helena that does not live up to its warranty upon close scrutiny. She recoils from the situation looking with repugnance at her alien possession. Cecily is frequently referred to as an it as opposed to my daughter by Helena. Cecily is also frightened by the appearance of her estranged Mother and this is reasonable for a four year old. Helena however, reacts with swallowed anger and removes herself from Cecily and the situation. This is also very childish, but understandable considering Helena"s emotional maturity. Helena, like a scolded four year old, sends herself to a room where she is safely locked away by herself for two atrocious hours (6). It is at this point that it becomes apparent that the mother and daughter relationship is doomed for the lack of an emotionally developed or mature mother.

Helena gave birth to Cecily at nineteen and was brought out there to marry (15) John at an even earlier age. Her life to this point has been dictated by men. She does what she is allowed to do and little else. Her husband did not allow Cecily"s return until she was twenty one years old because he simply would not hear of her coming before (15). Helena is expected to be maternal with a young woman whom she has not been allowed to raise. This is an un-fair position to be placed in by a requently absent husband. Helena does not want to feel old and is resolved to be young until [she] is old (15). She would rather not be reminded of her middle age by the maternally successful Mrs. Morgan or the presence of her youthful attractive daughter. With her daughter present she will lose the status of lady and gain attention as the mother of a twenty one year old woman. The relationship is tagged on too late by a pathetic father and a totally in-experienced mother who is now beyond caring.

Cecily is the victim of the self centred human garbage that is her parents. This story is an attack on Victorian domesticity and the pitfalls of being a mother in those times. Helena being a product of her society was incapable of being a mother at the age of forty and it is doubtful she could have been anything else other than a servant to her husband. Cecily did not stand a chance of having a meaningful relationship with her mother and is to be pitied as a character in such a dark, lamentable story. No doubt there is truth to the story, but it"s lack of humour and it"s absence of love puts a hopeful purpose to the category of fiction.


Duncan, Sara Jeannette, "A Mother In India," The Pool In The Desert, (Penguin Books Canada Ltd., 2801 John street Markham Ontario, Canada, 1984) page 5.

"All further references to this work will be from this edition and will be parenthetically noted by page numbers throughout the text of this essay."


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