Womanhood in Thicker than Water Essay

Womanhood in Thicker than Water Essay

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Womanhood in Thicker than Water


A woman's sexual discovery, or her menstruation, or her domesticity, or the development of her body, or a realization of an age-old philosophy, is perhaps, the catalyst to becoming a conventional woman. Regardless, civilization may hint to 'some' rite of passage, but is it clear as to 'what' it is that marks this new title of womanhood? The answer may seem blurred in the complexity of Kathryn Harrison's character Isabel, in her novel Thicker Than Water. Isabel's transformation—sometimes overlooked metamorphosis—is thwarted by her lonely search in discovering herself and her home, while yearning for her mother's love. Isabel's character becomes preoccupied with the idea that she is not, nor will be, a whole or "real woman," due to her lack of truly feminine qualities (those qualities she believes her mother possesses). In turn, all the emotions involved in Isabel's growth—from the time she was an infant until her early adult life—have manifested in the physical. That is to say, Isabel's need for maternal love is represented by the importance of "healthy" tactile affection and attention. And through her physical relationships with her mother and father, her own actions, the obsession with objects, and the representation of life in photographs, the reader may begin to see that Isabel was literally and physically forced into maturity. In theory, this forcing of womanhood, and denial of childhood and innocence, would propel Isabel into adulthood, where she is no longer the dependent and bothersome child her mother never wants. However, Isabel learns she must choose her independence and her womanhood.
As an infant, Isabel was not invited to touch her mother too...


... middle of paper ...


... able to find reciprocating love with a man whom is most like the only stable figure in her life, Opa. She no longer has to lie, but can be honest, knowing that the truth will heal her, and that the control is necessary. Even though she is aware that there is, "some love that [makes] the world less safe," she may choose not to give or receive that love (192). And while she dismembers the pictures of her father at the end of her memoir, she knows they represent something different for her and Sam. But, in the end, they are sacrificed as reminders of the journey she endured on her discovery of "home:" a place she chose for herself (269). Harrison allows her readers—through Isabel's character—to realize that womanhood cannot be forced by external and physical actions, but must be found by the woman, herself, emotionally.

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