The Good Mother – A Passive Life

The Good Mother – A Passive Life

Length: 1365 words (3.9 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
The Good Mother – A Passive Life  


"We live in a world...where the decisive deed may invite the holocaust." --John Updike

An interesting question that emerges while reading The Good Mother is: Why did Anna let it happen? Of course, this question must be included among many others, most of which elicit ambiguous answers: What really happened? Was there fault to be assigned? If so, who was at fault? What is a good mother? Can a woman be a good lover and a good mother? Where must sexual boundaries be drawn between children and couples in a household?

Regardless of what it is, the answer to the question Why did Anna let it happen is that she was rendered almost powerless by her gender, class, and social and family background to do anything but let it happen. She spent her life letting things happen.

Anna Dunlap, recently freed from a boring marriage and involved in a sexual awakening with an unconventional man, probably thought of herself as liberated in a very literal way before and during her affair with Leo Cutter. "I had a sense, a drunken irresponsible sense, of being about to begin my life, of moving beyond the claims of my own family, of Brian, into a passionate experiment, a claim on myself." (p. 10) As events played out, however, it became obvious that Anna had not escaped her history and that her "liberation" was just an illusion.

Anna grew up in the shadow of her wealthy, domineering grandfather, her emotionally absent father and her cold, achievement-oriented mother. Her mother ran her life, pushing Anna to practice piano in the hopes she would become a professional musician one day. Anna was learning that she was not in control of her life; she was forced to let life (through her mother's ambitions for her) happen to her.

When she visited her grandparents' summer home in Maine, Anna witnessed her grandfather's overwhelming dominance and saw her grandmother, mother and aunts engaged in interesting but meaningless (in Anna's view) "women's" conversations. When Anna was fourteen, her mother, realizing Anna was not a musical genius, loosened her grip on her daughter and, in fact, ceased to praise her for anything. As Anna's body changed and she became attractive to boys, she tried to define herself through sex, which she found empty and unsatisfying. Once again, Anna was not in control; she let it happen.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"The Good Mother – A Passive Life." 123HelpMe.com. 22 Jan 2020
    <https://www.123helpme.com/view.asp?id=6803>.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Amy Tan 's Mother And Sophie 's Grandmother Essay

- In this story the narrator seems to be Sophie’s grandmother telling the story. Is very different from Amy Tan’s story Two Kinds, yet very similar. It speaks about how Sophie’s Grandmother came from China with no money and didn’t speak not one word of English yet they managed to open their own restaurant and produce money for her household. It is very interesting the difference between Jing-mei’s mother and Sophie’s Grandmother. You see her show the difference between China and America , how in China the word ‘supportive’ does not exist basically that everyone is on their own and has to fend for themselves....   [tags: Family, China, Personal life, Mother]

Research Papers
712 words (2 pages)

Essay on A Feminist Perspective of The Good Mother

- 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....   [tags: Feminism Feminist Women Criticism]

Free Essays
1054 words (3 pages)

How Disney Princesses Went From Passive Damsels to Active Heroes Essay

- When we think of Disney princesses, we think of beauty and song. We also have the vivid vision of true love’s kiss and a castle in the clouds. Disney has received major criticism because some feel as though the model for Disney princesses perpetuates a weak female image. “In these animated worlds, good women are domesticators and resources; bad women are evil, greedy, individual perversions of natural orders; men ultimately hold procreative and productive dominion as civilizing forces in these worlds” (Bell, Haas, and Sells 11)....   [tags: Disney Princesses]

Research Papers
2885 words (8.2 pages)

Essay about The Concept of Infant-Mother Attachment

- ... Plus, it will lead to a life-long disability as a struggling adult. The emotional development (or lack of) alone can be very detrimental when the adult child is seeking friends and eventually an intimate relationship. For a child that has developed a secure infant-mother attachment the child is confident, less aggressive, more interested in exploration and able to problem solve (Diessner, 2008). The Ainsworth article refers that if several caregivers are involved, and the attachment to the mother is weak or strained, the child may show favoritism towards one, but there is still a special type of bond with the birth mother....   [tags: exploration, confidence, relationship, anxiety]

Research Papers
706 words (2 pages)

A Good Man Is Hard For Find By Flannery O ' Connor Essay

- “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor at first appears to be a seemingly mundane story about an annoying grandmother and how she controls her family. My first impression of the story proved to be incorrect. “A Good Man is Hard to Find” slowly builds to its horrifying conclusion. The events in the story work well together by building up to an almost inevitable final terror. Clues are slowly revealed throughout the story of the coming tragedy. The grandmother’s personality and her actions, combined with how her family allowed her manipulations ultimately led to the family’s death....   [tags: Family, Mother, Time, Marriage]

Research Papers
1833 words (5.2 pages)

Smoking Bans: Good or Bad? Essay example

- ... Their claims may be different but they both believe that smoking bans are helpful in improving the health of both smokers and non-smokers a like. They both uses strong logical appeal to argue their points and present their results in easy to understand tables and graphs for their audience to understand. In “Effect of Smoke-Free Workplaces on Smoking Behavior: Systematic Review”, Stanton A. Glantz uses strong logical appeal to argue her points on why she believes that smokers and non-smokers are affected in workplace environments....   [tags: second hand smoke, tobacco]

Research Papers
1792 words (5.1 pages)

Violent Media...Good for Kids? Essay

- In “Violent Media is Good for Kids” Gerard Jones introduces us to his fearful and lonesome childhood. He lived in a world where he was taught to be the violence fearing, and passive boy his parents wanted him to be. But, when one of his mother’s students gave him a Marvel comic book, his fearfulness was transformed into inspiration. He found a way to escape these discouraging feelings through the “stifled rage and desire for power” (Jones 285) that he had newly found. The popular comic book hero “The Hulk” freed him from his passive and lonely persona....   [tags: The Media]

Research Papers
955 words (2.7 pages)

Good and Evil in Good Country People Essay example

- Good and Evil in Good Country People      In "Good Country People" by Flannery O'Connor, the masked truth is reflected unequivocally through the reality in the story, its equal counterpart. For every good or evil thing, there is an antagonist or opposing force. Each character has a duplicate personality mirrored in someone else in the story. In the story, the names and personalities of the characters clash. The name is the mask covering the personality, which is representative of the reality aspect of each character....   [tags: people]

Research Papers
1331 words (3.8 pages)

Public Smoking Should Be Banned Essay

- A Breath of Fresh Air is my Right: Banning of Smoking in Public Places Is it fair for that person to get sick too, because he/she around with smokers. Countless medical studies over the years have proven the link of smoking cigarettes to the deterioration of the smoker’s health. According to Mazzone and Arroliga (2004), “Nearly 450,000 persons will die every year of a disease attributable to tobacco use. In the United States, tobacco use kills more people each year than AIDS, suicide, murder, car accidents, and illicit drugs combined” (para....   [tags: Tobacco, Smoking, Smoking ban, Passive smoking]

Research Papers
816 words (2.3 pages)

Religion: What Good Is It? Essay examples

- While it is not necessary for societal human good, religion is nevertheless an invaluable source of benefit to society. This is not to say it is without problems, for much violence, such as the Crusades, has occurred and continues to occur due to religion. Because of its enormous influence and power, whether religion has positive or negative effects depends largely on how that power is used. Problems occur when religion becomes so powerful that it can blind its followers, limiting them to a single, prescribed view of moral action....   [tags: Religion Religious ]

Research Papers
1718 words (4.9 pages)

Related Searches



Babe, Anna's young aunt, provided Anna with an example of someone who had freed herself -- at a great price -- from the shackles of her family. Babe got pregnant at age sixteen. She was sent to Europe, where she had her baby and gave it up for adoption. (Of course this was not spoken of back home.) Babe became estranged from her family, executed a shaky reconciliation, and developed into an alcoholic. She drowned, drunk, at her grandparents' fifty-fifth anniversary party. To Anna, Babe began to seem "less a role model...than a cautionary tale." (p. 44)

Each time whatever Anna had "let happen" ended, her life took an almost opposite turn and she held on for the ride. When her mother relinquished control over Anna's life and Anna changed from a isolated music student to a "popular," semi-promiscuous high school coed, the new role ultimately proved demoralizing. "I didn't know what to do, and so did nothing (my emphasis) while a whole series of boys ground groaning against me, their eyes shut against seeing me, their hands on my breasts, and finally in my blouse, up my skirt." (p. 52) So Anna persuaded her parents to send her to a girls' school. In college there was another period of joyless sexual activity. It continued after she met Brian. "As soon as we'd slept together he began talking about fidelity, loyalty, marriage. In that context I became more responsive to him. I liked him, understood him. He was as stern, as judgmental with himself as I was with myself." (p. 129) They married, and Anna spent the next seven years sitting out the sexual revolution, "practicing the piano and making curtains." (p. 110) Their sex life, for Anna, was "so...nothing. So terrible." (p. 12)

Soon after her divorce, Anna met Leo Cutter. "Leo was everything my family, Brian, I, were not. A little of it was posture...but most of it was a genuine sort of recklessness of the heart." (p. 115) Again, Anna's life took a one-hundred and eighty degree turn and again, she followed its reckless path with little effort or thought.

The most important aspect of Anna and Leo's relationship was sex. It was wild, passionate and fulfilling, a kind of sex Anna had never experienced before. Soon Leo was spending nights at Anna's apartment, he and Molly fixing breakfast for Anna in the morning. Sometimes Molly would crawl into the bed with the couple during the night, once while they were engaged in sex, although apparently Molly wasn't aware of that. "We seemed fused, the three of us, all the boundaries between us dissolved." (p. 124)

It was this effortless fusion, this dissolution, that inevitably lead to disaster. And as the disaster unfolded, Anna once again fell into her pattern of passivity and let it happen. Although the very process of the custody fight took away much of Anna's power, her actions (or inactions) were remarkably non-combative, given that her life with her child and her life with her lover were at risk. She sacrificed Leo, approving an agreement that would allow her to see Molly as long as Leo weren't present. "Anna," (Leo) said suddenly, then stopped. "Now don't get pissed off, but isn't there another way to do this?"
"To do what?"
"Well, what I mean is, do you have to just, let this happen, all of this stuff? Isn't there a way to, some way, to fight it?"
"I don't think so."
"But this way, Jesus...I can't believe you have to allow it, just let it roll over you like this."

During all the custody proceedings, there was only once where Anna defended herself or Leo, and that was a halfhearted defense to Dr. Payne. She gave over all decisions to her lawyer, Muth, upon whom she came to depend in an almost daughterly way. Her relationship with Leo became utterly false, as she continued to live with him and have sex with him even though she was angry at him and unresponsive to him, sexually. These reactions bring to mind a daughter dealing with a domineering father, the daughter knows that the best way to avoid conflict and pain is through silence. In Anna's case, though, silence was not what was needed at this time. Anna's inability to assert herself seems to have been a large part of the reason she lost custody of Molly. Her friend, Ursula, commented on it:

"You were just so passive, Anna. You never fought back or anything. You should have told them all off from the start." She'd come over to help me pack, and was wearing an unusually conservative outfit for her: jeans, a gray sweatshirt.
"I thought I could get Molly this way."
"Yeah, but you didn't, did you? It didn't help. You played along with everyone and it didn't help."
"What was I supposed to do, Ursula?" I was folding clothes, all the dresses I never wore.
"Tell them off. Get witnesses. Me. I would have testified for you. I'm a psychologist. In some cultures, kids watch their parents screw all the time. Even in our culture, artists, creative people, have always been deviant. Those fucking rules they were talking about apply to a tiny percentage of the world's population. They were dealing with an incredibly narrow definition of right and wrong."
"But I knew that. I knew those were the terms." I tried not to think of Ursula on the stand in my behalf.
"Yeah, but why should they have been? Why shouldn't you have insisted on other terms?"
"Because the judge wouldn't have listened to a discussion on other terms."
"But you never even tried, Anna." (pp. 295-296)

This final passiveness was a continuation of Anna's lifelong pattern in dealing with her life: She just let it happen.
Return to 123HelpMe.com