Throughout the novel Harriet’s striking differences are juxtaposed against the societal trends of the time and she is commonly viewed as a misplaced oddity. Early descriptions in The Fifth Child define Harriet as abnormal and her image places her outside of the robust and transitional society in which she lives. Harriet is a curious misfit and she “sometimes felt herself unfortunate and deficient in some way” (10). This recognition of inexplicable peculiarities soon establishe...
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...ly illuminates and exploits the despicable views and problems in society. The novel exemplifies society’s elitist attitude and unjust marginalization of individuals who are regarded as degenerate, invalid and grotesque through Harriet. Her harrowing interactions with the magnificently developed and horrific institution highlights the pathetic attempts of society to displace individuals and dispose of them beyond their functioning boarders. In addition, Harriet’s parallels with the institution lead to her alienation from the world. She is regarded as grossly unnatural, criminalized, and left alone to raise her difficult son Ben. It is clear that Harriet’s unfortunate interaction and connection to the ghastly institution uncovers society’s unforgiving demeanor and demonstrates the terrible and irreparable rift between misunderstood, peculiar individuals and the world.
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