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Motherhood in The Summer Before the Dark by Kate Brown and The Fifth child by Harriet Lovatt

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Motherhood in The Summer Before the Dark by Kate Brown and The Fifth child by Harriet Lovatt


Motherhood is a traditional role for women. From the time they are young, girls are taught to grow up, marry and become mothers. Of course they can do other things with their lives like play sports, have careers, and travel, but an overwhelming amount of women want to be mothers no matter what else they accomplish with their lives. It is common knowledge that being a good mother is one of the hardest jobs in the world. It is to forever have a special link with another person or people and have a tremendous influence, maybe the most tremendous influence over their lives. Motherhood is a roller coaster ride for women, full of ups and downs, fears and accomplishments. But what happens when motherhood defines who a woman is? All children grow up, and while a woman is always a mother, children need their mothers less and less until eventually their dependence is very minimal. What happens to the woman whose singular role and purpose is no longer needed? In The Summer Before The Dark, and The Fifth Child, the maternal roles of Kate Brown, and Harriet Lovatt are analyzed and traditional motherhood behavior is deconstructed due to these characters’ experiences and relationships with their children.

     Kate Brown is the typical middle class, attentive mother who dedicates her entire life to raising her children and being a supportive wife to her husband. She has been a mother for the vast majority of her life, and that is the only role she has known. “Her first child had been born at twenty-two. The last was born well before she was thirty” (Lessing, 18). This novel takes place when Kate is forty- five, so for 23 years, Kate has been a mother and a wife. This has been the basis of her existence. “Kate’s four children have structured her existence, as can be seen in her almost “maternal” responses to young people she encounters in her life” (Lee, 17). All Kate knows how to do is be a mother and take care of other people. This is apparent in her relationships with people at Global Food, (the place where she is hired to be a translator), and with both Jeffrey her younger lover) and Maureen, (her roommate). Her maternal instincts are extremely strong and at the beginning of the novel, it seems that is all that defines her. She comes to the realization that her younges...


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...other due to her young age and lack of exposure to the world. Harriet Lovatt had experience in the world but unleashed it when she became a mother in hopes of dedicating all her efforts to being a good mother, until eventually this very drive to be a good mother caused her world to crumble. She realized that in order to save herself, she would have to liberate the relentless drive to attain her goal of being a good mother. She had to let go just as Kate Brown did. For “ the woman with grown- up children and not enough to do, whose energies must be switched from the said children to less vulnerable targets, for everybody’s sake, her own as well as theirs” (www.galileo.usg.edu)

The last part of this quote is pivotal. The mothers must consider everyone involve, including themselves. They must take their own interests into account and care about how they will turn out in the long run. This act, itself, defies traditional motherhood roles. In all actuality, mothering is a selfless act and mothers think about themselves last, if at all. But sometimes, for the sake of themselves, their souls, and their families, mothers have to put themselves first for the sake of everyone involved.


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