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Symbolism In Evelyn Lau's 'An Insatiable Emptiness'

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Mom? Dad? Both? On the surface, Evelyn Lau’s An Insatiable Emptiness examines a young girl’s descent into bulimia fueled by the emotional trauma of her controlling mother’s abuse. The mother’s ridicule of her daughter’s blossoming body, and making the girl feel ashamed of herself for the natural changes during puberty resulted in self-loathing and an unnatural relationship with food. Her mother’s abuse extended to food as well, as she forced a strict diet on the family and blamed the daughter for it. Looking at the instances of her mother’s emotional, mental and physical abuse (forced diet), could convince the reader that her mother alone caused all the daughter’s pain. However, the father must bear the greater responsibility for his daughter’s…show more content…
For a child, having only one parent is tough but can be understood if that parent is missing due to divorce or death, as bad as those reasons are; yet the psychological effect for the child who is purposely betrayed then abandoned by a parent is devastating and can last a lifetime, affecting every future relationship. In this story, the father is that parent. Lau doesn’t give us the girl’s name. Perhaps it is symbolic of the girl’s feeling that she hates her body, and that she really is no good, as her mother said (160) and therefore she doesn’t deserve a name. She becomes a non-entity, a thing despised by her mother and herself. As a young adult, she says “I no longer thought of myself as a girl or a woman . . . I was an “it,” a conduit for a constant stream of ugliness that had to pass through it in order for me to stay pure,” (161). The father doesn’t openly despise his daughter, but neither does he give her the…show more content…
Perhaps he was a lazy man, or a peace-loving man or an ignorant man, but regardless of the reason he decided to be distant and quiet, his noninterference only served to exacerbate his daughter’s problems. He had opportunities to speak to his wife about her behavior when it was apparent that her actions caused suffering for their daughter. A case in point is the dinnertime scene when the wife serves only “small portions of steamed fish and vegetables, chicken with the skin removed,” then after dinner when everyone was still hungry she would tell her daughter “It’s because of you that we didn’t get enough to eat, that we’re going to bed hungry . . .” (158). This father was not blind and deaf. He became complicit in the abuse by his silence. He did not attempt to dissuade his wife from forcing her strict diet on the family. He must have noticed his daughter’s head hanging down and her tears and pain at the table as he meekly ate the paltry dinner (158). When his wife was rapidly losing weight he insisted that she eat but he shortly gave up and began staying away from home until dinner was over (159), becoming even more distant from his hurting child. Rather than confront his wife to help both her and their daughter, he demonstrated a strong fear of his mate by staying out late, then staying in another room until he was sure she was asleep before going to bed himself
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