A Feminist Perspective of The Good Mother

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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.
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