Welcome to Scribd, the world's digital library. Read, publish, and share books and documents. See more
Standard view
Full view
of .
Look up keyword
Like this
0 of .
Results for:
No results containing your search query
P. 1
Moderns and Their Mother's Reach (Original)

Moderns and Their Mother's Reach (Original)

Ratings: (0)|Views: 12 |Likes:
Original version.
Original version.

More info:

Published by: Patrick McEvoy-Halston on Nov 05, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as DOC, PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd
See more
See less





Patrick McEvoy-Halston1ENG 5063Alan Ackerman10 May 2006Moderns and their Mothers’ Reach: Returning to the Empowered Mother in TennesseeWilliams’
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof 
and Arthur Miller’s
 Death of a Salesman
Terrible Honesty
, Ann Douglas argues that moderns felt they needed to find away to free themselves from their Victorian predecessors, and discusses how the cultural products of the modern period worked to fashion a milieu which enabled moderns to feelfree from their influence and command. Free, they fashioned one of the richest cultural periods that have ever existed. But she also argues that the moderns knew that a pricewould have to be paid for all this growth. She writes that they knew at some point, theMaternal—the “element” they repressed and beat back—would make stage a return, andmake them pay for their insolence. Some theorists—especially those influenced byobject-relations thought—argue, however, that the nature of how most of us experienceour own self growth and freedom would ensure that moderns would
stage thereturn to a matriarchal environment—that is, that She wouldn’t need to return, for theywould feel compelled to “come visit her.” I hope to suggest that some modernist playsmay have well served to both help effect the matricide Douglas argues modernist cultural products helped effect, and to vicariously offer them a means by which to temporarilyreturn to the maternally dominating environment they so loathed and feared.Specifically, I will explore how Brick and Margaret, in Tennessee Williams’
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof 
and Biff, in Arthur Miller’s
 Death of a Salesman
, are made to seemrelatively empowered moderns who exist outside of the maternal surround, but who risk 
upon their return to a maternal environment, the loss of hard won and highly prizedindependence.Douglas makes a very bold argument in
Terrible Honesty
: she more than arguesthat modern New York was moved by a desire to effect cultural matricide, to war againstmothers and everything maternal, she argues that
itself was moved primarily by this impulse. According to Douglas, moderns preferred, for instance, crisp, precise,straightforward prose that “cut through all the bull,” because it was deemed a prose styleopposed to that valued by Victorian matrons—because it was deemed, non-motherly.She believes that moderns were at war against those leading matrons of (American)Victorian society who made selfish use of those about them—of their children, especially —to serve their own ends. She acknowledges that the moderns’ successful effort tocreate a new and very fecund culture depended on them feeling as if they had, if not slain“her,” beat back the Victorian Titaness (i.e., the term used by moderns to refer to theempowered matriarchal figure in the Victorian period) enough to create room for their own growth. But Douglas is baffled by the fact that moderns felt they needed to effectmatricide in order to produce breathing space for themselves. That is, she asks herself,and cannot answer, why a generation would go to war against maternal Victorian matronswho’d long been dead before any of them had been born?Given that Douglas writes about the difficulties specific moderns had with their mothers, and even argues that the entirety of Hemingway’s opus should be primarilyunderstood as an effort to distinguish himself from, and revenge himself upon, his mother (222), it is odd that she doesn’t consider the possibility that the real reason they warredagainst mothers was not because they felt Victorian matrons somehow had a hold on2
them, but because they felt and feared that their own mothers did. She chooses toconflate John Watson’s—the most prominent 20s child psychologist—observationsconcerning how mothers attend to their children and the effects this attendance has uponthem, into her larger argument that the moderns were at war against their historical predecessors, against the Victorian epoch. But if Watson’s belief that mothers moreharm than help their children is in fact true, we have reason to suspect that moderns trulyneeded to make use of their cultural products to help them cope with problems associatedwith difficulties arising from attempts to grow apart and distinguish themselves fromtheir own mothers.According to Ann Hulbert, Watson should be counted amongst a host of childexperts who proliferated in the modern era who believed that unfulfilled wives made useof their own children to satisfy their unmet needs (
 Raising America
141). He observedthat mothers tend to over handle their children, kiss them obsessively, “stroke[e] andtouch [their] [. . .] skin, lips, sex organs and the like,” and argued that no one should“mistake it for an innocent pastime” (141). In short, he argued that mothers madeincestual use of their children. In order to spare children this incestual handling, heargued that parents should ensure that children spend as little time with their mothers as possible. According to Watson, children must be placed in separate beds, in separaterooms, kept away from their mothers, else they suffer the repercussions of being perpetually swarmed over and used by them (Douglas 43). The repercussions of suchhandling for the child: debilitation—the child would forever thereafter have difficultyleaving behind him/her “nesting habits,” and was therefore unlikely to be able to“conquer the difficulties it must meet in its environment” (141).3

You're Reading a Free Preview

/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->