Bitter Reality in Landscape for a Good Woman
"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. Because she has not been influenced by the 'norms' of the middle and upper-class, she seems to be free of much of the guilt which has been connected with parenting, which in turn has allowed for more freedom of a kind. In some ways she is ahead of her times in that she realizes her own needs, and makes time for herself, as in the Sunday afternoons alone. Edna believes herself to be doing a good job, and as a result, Kay realizes that this is the best that she do as a mother and is less condemning than someone from another class might be. Kay sees her mom as basically a good mother with faults like anyone else and does not look for pity throughout the story. She presents the good and the bad, non-judgmentally. The judgment comes in when the reader comes to this book with preconceived notions of what it means to be a 'good mother'. Kay is able to look at the strengths of her mother and be proud, despite the childhood she never had.
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