PatrickMcEvoy-Halston English5793HF Professor Colin Hill 02 Januarv 2006

Quitting Home in Sinclair Ross'sAs For Me and My House

If we were to assemble canonof Canadiantexts basedon their ability to help Canadians a live better lives, we might do well to include Sinclair Ross' As For Me and My Hou^se one of its as lenphnh?5.' 5ou*.oLS core texts. For the text is not simply a"prairie book"-ftmay inTact speakto the primary needs


-'lr(^ andconcerns most of contemporary Canadians. tftts rfanator, Bentley, The Mrs. oftenexpresses
\-/ in herjournal her fear that shelives in a threateningand insecureenvironment. Yet sheultimately

work to empowerher. And for the reader,the readingexperience might not be anywherenear as claustrophobicand uncomfortableaswe might assume would be given Mrs. Bentley's numerous it complaintsconcerningthe variousparticularswhich make Horizon sucha horror. The text may in fact feel roomy, and offer the readerpleasingvariety. f'or sJne it may indeedserveas a placethey nestlein for awhile and developthe resources to and savyness help make their own self-growth


identifiedasposttraumatic than But it may {Vostmodern.
--.^-, ) ^^^-^ ^^ tl^^^^r ,-',

the venbefore9-1I made


worldseem tlo"ut"ni{6t-ffiEiolillilll ,o

knew what was feelthreatened theworld it to by tn
t (otl't " ' '

U *ound them. For if psychohistorians asLloyd deMause correct. ry such throughout histo ^a are
still today, most peoplehavenot beensufficiently well nurturedby their mothersto feel otherwtse. ,-,--Z


DeMause most believes historyis a nightmare arejust wakingup from (1). He believes that we
people are prone to imagine the world as a threate{rng place,regardless; he believesthat most for





so threatening that if we wereunfortunate is enoughto havemotherswho werepoorly themselves poorly nurtured(anddeMause onewho believes is that mostmothershavethroughouthistorybeen insufficiently nurtured,supported), they interpretour own self-growth,our own movements towardexploringthe world, asus abandoning in them-and they respond kind, that is, they to / someextentwithdraw their supportandlove from us (deMause, "Psychogenic Theoryof History 165). Theyexpect to mettheirunmetneeds, experience us an whichis responsible uslaterin for


life feelingjust like Mr. Bentleytbels,in thatwe too at somelevelfeel that"a will stronger than \"Pt* pittedagainst" U7("----*rawhen attend our own. we canin ( to lourf 1.. .l own [is] deliberately v.n fact experience fearsof death, Joseph as Rheingold explains: .]fiht6" ,n,. Basically,it is generallyagreed, separation means from the mother. It may hold separation no connotation punishment, ir#rignin"ant of but meaningis desertion the mother. by

lrtl 0

''-"'iwu'itrrtt-' ilt/

Although in infancy the mereabsence the motheris a threatto survival, separation of becomes associated purpose, is, with abandonment. with that Deathis equated with willful withdrawal of the mother. Separation to anxiety seems be universaland is a maior source of deathanxietythroughout fr(t) t \/

Being a psychoanalyst, course, patie { meansthat Rheingolddevotedhimself to assisting fis of Wt W"V

,/,/w16ld feel lessovercomewith deathanxiety. He believedthat as a therapisthe was ./fr

empoweredto help them, for "[t]here is no more powerful correctiveforce than the 'good-mother' protectiveness the therapist" (227). But perhapsif not as good, texts, that is, alternativeworlds of traumatizedreaders might immersethemselves might also function as a "powerful corrective in, force" in helping make readersfeel someof the securitythey needto live engaging,playful,


t" P"ftu. r,//'oto G,Air4/ cT;/o q

ry-rfl@ -ffi

healthylives. / Traumatheoristshaveincreasingrespectfor t

inportant of

astherapeutic aids,with


mostdiscussion now on whetheror not theymay easeM*fg, not

but on which sortsof texts are

{ '

.! I \n
N $

themostemancipatory (Vickroy 12). Thoughthe studyof readerrm{rer-sibn textshas"not been in putticularly popularwith the 'textual' brandsof literary theory" (15), as"it conflicts with [their]




(91,rhder-response of psychologists literary who theorists cognitive and [. . .] concept language" study readers' generally involvement texts, in agree reading that involves reader "creating" tle in a worldthat"stretch[es] space, in exist[s] time"(Genig15).Thecognitive psychologist in nichard - .rP
Cerrigargues thetext actually that "serve[s] [a] habitat"1l5) for thereader, thatreaders as and are I "placed"within thetext as"side-participants overhearers" (119). He doesnot believethat or "transportation into a narative world is dependent nanativeskills" (95), but surelynot all texts on in / draw readers equallyably. We know that realisttextswereonce"accused"of evoking readers' / ,/ emotionalresponses an unprecedented to degree, it may be that even"diffrcult" modemist and oneshavethe potentialto be evenmoreinvolving. For, accordingto NormanCantor,'the burden




\, 0 *




. i5

of themodemist novel[was [. . .] existential mythic, more human self' the] discovery a deeper, of

tl :,!., L./ author. which helps reader discover the to
T"/ "/i^;p ry"Faf,futf"

He writesthat"[t]he modemist noveldoes contain story,whichmaybeby tumselaborate a YrWAr53). Vand minimal,butit serves asa vehiclefor the only of on exploration sensibility thepartof the I,rl'",

(53). him---or herself' -

7-1*2etat * '


lfCantoriscorrectthattextswhic involve

"*** personal -em to such extent an tha@eadsto dramatic discoveries changes, it might and then

thatAsForMeandMyHouse,whichisallabouttheexplorationofthepsychic/emotionallif '^rV'
vrs. Bentleyassheexplores newhabitat, immersive text t lf her Horizon, mightbea particularly





f". thereader inhabit.But if readers likely to a greater lesser to Mrs. to are or extent share

Flt t'



;r. ,ft.T,c; Ar//7r/ rzvo/e/- n^rr"


laou 4

//L-t -/n.n4'


Bentley's "processof locating and displacingherself' (Kroetsch2lT) in Horizon, if they are drawn to vicariously experience own emotionalresponse her environment,how-if her to securereaders,"as I am suggE they are indeed

to benefitfrom ike:ly be-could theypossibly

would waken. 8

- " -;;;;;;;a,i#;ffi,,:;T:.-.', ',f
abandonment) may be exactly thosewho would be most affectedby this description,for some


arguethat our level of immersionin a text greatlydepends uponthe degree which we to



identity theprir with

wouldn't flinch when faced with the "softy steadyswish of rain," the rest of the descriptioncould not but evoke their own fears,their own memories,of finding themselves alone and uncared all for. But if readersexperienced feelingsof abandonment when they were young, experiences which could not but be traumatizingto a vulnerablechild, they might in fact be drawn to re-stage

repetition. for "demands" that traumaspecialists trauma ,JHeq feelings, it is well knownamongst
/( seemingly #JS BesselVan der Kolk writes, "Many traumatizedpeopleexposethemselves,
$ A n.


t wn^frld/ ,r{ "tr"Ar'-tr'



" rffi 4)

'.,,,,.*ffi -i::," ;;#ffi:""-" ;ffi;;L:, :;;ry
rarcryconscrousry unoefsrooo Derelareo eafllernle expe7nces'ro (Jdy). ttut rI tnls passag, , to merelyhelpedsatisfua reader'srepetitioncompuls ion,littley'od wouldlikely comeof it, for though"Freudthought thattheaim of repetition ,o;dn ^urr"O,[. . .] clinicalexperie: was ty btJJ ' ^'n/' '

aat tc'u "*dff *\* -'otw, Y ffi{,"ffi;il';i"",'!''"'.*]",'".\n.,.u.nulio,alreenactments^i"N
t?,uc Ar;L
jti";"" ';;ffi


shown shown thisrarely that happens; in"t"ua,rcpetitiol/uuses suffering tt ,ri"ti-. or lor instead, rr\ec;2d*es further for ro. thevictims firther

people tlreirsurroundings"an der in 1V ffi
more a sanctuary than a houseof h

Yr-P proves much Ap .'nb 389).Butls For MeandMy Hozse
That- ij is better the is, whicharouses a text r w'V
.o y I nF fl


*T ;-4
r;-, ryif

.^. ' fearsbut which ultimately works to help ssrrrs lr{:Lllj/ tr4J rrur wurl"u urlrrrrorsrJ vv(rr^,r ru rrsrp settle
-"r -*::3 Certainlyreaders mustintuit that if the night canmakeMrs. Bentleyfeel aloneand rrrlru r ular ll ur9 lllBril uilll llra|lr' wrr s. Dr'lllrr,y r.nsr arurln ilrru

vulnerable, therearethose that aboutcanmakeher feel safeandsecure.fhey might i mightjy'fact be



p,"- U

t^ 'd\

lookingto find sanctuary thematemal, asJoseph with for Rheingold -*"Fars/o*^\uor-.n, "motivate wishto retumto theuterus" the (18),to theempowered mother, theyfrnd$rn.orr" and especially suited safeguard in Mrs.Finely. Theyencounter in thetext I well to them her immediately hearing Mrs.Bentley's after and of fearful nighttime experience, it is doubfut
whethershecould havebeendescribed asto seemmoreideally suitedto countertfr" tfeatenine so nighttime it environs.Thenightcouldmakethehouses but "helpless," it is hardto imaefne doine




(8) c.,,rld thesame Mrs.Finley,for sheis described "austere" andforceful. Thenights[<y't*t to as

I"4 \


make townseem cower, be"afraidto movelestit toppleintothewind";hardlyfeu\fuf rn" ,. jil to to .




Sheis more than someone who is "self-important"(185),that is, as Frank Davey

understands as,sheis important theto$n her to


thatsheis anythrnt otn", ,p

than leadir(g its (g),nut matriarchfit's (8) matriarch, matriarch "self-assumed{ iarc)u, n'.t"*,(ffi"D


nevertheless.But shemay indeedstrike us lessas particular and distinct than as a member of the matronly "mass" who rule Horizon. Mrs. Bentley tells us that "Mrs. Finley and her kind are the proverbial stonewalls againstwhich unimportantheadslike mine are knocked in vain" (17), and we note that as we meet their husbands, they are repeateddescribedas subservient their wives. to Mrs. Finley, of course,most certainlymanages husband.He is described a "meek little her as mar" (9), someonewho has a o'cage drawn over him" (9). And soon afterwards,we also hear of Mrs. Lawson,"a sharp,stirring t. . .] woman," and of how she'omanag[es] [. . .] husband like a her yelping little terrier round a plodding Clyde" (27). That is, though sheis madeto seemsomeone who could safeguard Mrs. Bentley (and the insecurereader),sheis also made to seemsomeone who might effect upon her what often occurswhen out of fear we seeka return to the maternal,
./ ( namely, the loss of our self command and individuated status (Rheingold l7).



Wenderby's particular "portl[iness]" (5); for just beforebeing told of her rotundity, we were told shecameby so as to o'size [the Bentley's] t. . .] up and seehow much [they] t. . .] own" (5): no

doubt, we reciprocate,and size her up as well. We are of coursesubsequently told of how "[t]he

town seeme[d]huddledtogether,"a drawing togetherwhich has us thinking of its structuresas bodily conjoined. And emergingfrom the huddle is what is madeto seemthe town's most distinctive and important structure-the church, a structurewhich is describedso that it seemsa maternal,birthing, womb-like structure. Though Helen Buss believesthat the church, which is "black evenagainstthe darkness, towering ominously up throughthe night and merging with it," is clearly apatriarchal structure(196), for insecurereaderswhosedefining experienceof abandonmentis forever linked to the maternal, the fact that it mergeswith the abandoning

nighttime environswould work againstit being thought of as such. It is true that linear height is at times associated with masculinity in the text-his looming height probably helps make Mr. Bentley seemresoluteand manly. But arguablyat this point in the text, masculinity is more clearly associated with squareness than with linearity: We learnthat linear Main Streetis presidedover by "Main Streethostess[es]" (9), and hearof Mr. Bentley's "stalwart, four-square, Christian sermon"

(7). Triangles, however, shape a wh
'^\'l"o ' birthing maternal body -'-a especial


it doespatriarchalorder,

V ..fy

involv "hu."r6-ol6it 99f,":-al atft'fiangular structure----one births.That in herthirdjoumal is, entry, when which G9.

in thistext,and nextsubstantive the descriptionth" of


shedescribes ownhome us,Mrs.Bentley shedescribes own homefor us, Mrs. Bentleydescribes relationto the churchso that the her her its describes relation thechurch thatthe

W '( "//


grayish is to house, and akin says, a small, squat, "It's \f church made seem to abirthingmother.She



of themountain did all thefussing gave that (18-9). Thechurch already and birthto amouse" has O.Uoifu @" seem if its innards matemal----orleast as are at matronly-for whenthechurch

-^/y rf fu pr4/ Lrrf .. Af -r

congregation described us,we hearonly of the "womenin theirhumdrum is for forties"(14);and choiris detailed us,we leamthatit too is composed "matrons, for of middleaged "n*th r;;).9. andon" ( I 5). The likelihood that the readerwill imaginethe churchasa matemalstructureis | ,' I enhanced havingdelineated us the physicalparticularsof another by for triangular,'lvide hipped" "entity," immediatelyafterwards the text. We meetMrs. Ellington, and leam that sheis a in "large, Norwegianwoman,in shape structure and ratherlike a snowman madeof threeballs piled


\1 .,tt)o
ff^"r?1' NJI'

U on top ofone another" (19). (A snowman of course is triangular structure). alsoleam We another that "[h]er broadred faceis buttoned down like a cushionin themiddlewith a noseso smallthat in profileit's invisible"(19). Hernoseis to herfacewhatMrs. Bentley's house to thechurch:both is tiny or invisible in comparison the morerelevantstructure.In addition,we arealsotold that to

\IlV0 :- J0 ' itV ' aYl f

A{^are ID" (19). "Hens"seems "boarders chickens" morematemal than and .'- Mrs. Ellington'shomehouses uP./][, l 1

tl' f{-


(l v

"chickens" (they arelater in the text referredto ashens),but sincewe aretold that their eggsare 1 broughtover to the Bentleysfor dinner,they aremadeto seemmatemalenough. fr}tl


environment For MeandMy Houseaffords reader, ^lt[ As the then,seems potenti to ]e conftont them with experiencing twoconsiderable the of an to drawbacks seeking escape a matemal indeed. Bentley Mrs. and world, and, "fold" for fearofa threatening abandoning
repeatedly complains of how living in Horizon means to live in a domineering and smothering

. .. *f. *
-/ p',gr,ti I
<) f

,r*rf yf,t


environment. Her joumal in fact begins with evidence that, like their husbands,the Bentley's too are managedby the town's matrons. 'We "see" Mr. Bentley hard at work "putting up stovepipes

and opening crates" (5). He is poor at this sort of work, but he doesit because matronssuch as ,--.\ Finely/expecthim to be the one who "get[s] up on the roof and put[s] a few new shingleson" Mtt. \/

(8). Mrs. Finley is not to be fiddled with; the Bentleys"defer" ( l0) to her, and acceptthat survival will mean adaptingthemselves they serveher and the other matrons' needsratherthan their so

own: "I'm afraid it [i.e.,V(rs.Finely'f crusading intentto shape 'in her own image'] may mean all \/ somechangesfor Philip anM#' (8). It meansthat they will needto behaveso that they have the needsof the community foremostin mind, exactlythe position children areplacedin regardsto


^at a J

their mothers if they are unfortunate enoughto have immature mothers. And we note that in Mrs. Finely's presence, Mrs. Bentleyis described girl-like, for Mrs. Finely "sent [her] t. . .] fiddling as with [her] t. . .] apron like a little girl" (8). If they act as they themselves desire,"Horizon" will notice and disapprove. So sinceMrs. Bentley knows that Mrs. Finley and her ilk would






M - 'J
l E

A' '.
t-l t - l

f{,/I ^ t t tl I

n \, v,

,rf {-f

l\ \,

disapproveif sheassociated closely with Judith, and eventhough shewould really like to be too more familiar with her, she concludesthat she"will have to be friends with Judith warily" (8). And in the samepassage, also hurries her journey home out of a fear that "Horizon will be she reminding [them] t. . .] of [their] t. . .] extravagance" (17) shouldthey see"two lampsburning" late at night. But if readersfeel insecurein the world, if they feel unattended alone,abandoned, they to, might enjoy knowing that the personthey are most likely to identity and associate with-Mrs. Bentley-is fussedover as much as sheis in the text. For equally evident in the text as is their commandoverher,isthegreatinteresttheytakeinher.Shematt.,,,,.


| J , ' uv



Bentleyis to someextenta valued"commodity," for associating with the minister's wife is a

meansby which to elevateone's statusin the town (58). Her value is made very apparentright from the start; we are told that Mrs. Finely "must have spenthourspreparingfor [them] [. . .], cleaningher house,polishing her cut glassand silver" (9). Of course,the attendance Horizon




offers is often madeto seemmean-spirited and hostile, evenif subtly so. But Mrs. Bentley herself





admits that a hostile environmentis to be prefened to an indifferent one-and the readermight well shareher preference. In regardsto a different environment-the wilderness-she says,"The stillnessand solitude-we think a force or presence into it----even hostile presence, a deliberate, aligned againstus-for we darenot admit an indifferent wilderness,where we have no meaningat


all" (131).'And, we note,a hostileenvironment its uses, has if especially readers haveexperienced intensehostility from their mothers,for it motivatesthe expression ratherthan the withholding of


rage. Rheingold arguesthat thosewho experienced maternalneglectare usually loath to express their angerat their mothers. He writes that "child[ren] fear the consequences not loving the of mother or of bearingher animosity" (200). "The child is enjoinedto show love for the mother,and failure to do so carriesa threat,for the child must protectthe mother's defenses againsther

perception,and the perceptionby others,of her lack of motherly feeling or her hostile impulses. One must love his mother,or perish,or at leastsuffer guilt" (201). Admittedly, it is indirect-Mrs. Bentley never vents her angerspecifically at mothers-but sheoften forcefully expresses her angerat what the readermight well havebeenprimed to considera maternalenvironment,namely, Horizon. They encounter(and experience), instance,her desirefor the wind to "work its will" for (57) and destroythe town; for "[her] t. . .l fingers itch to smudgeit out" (92); for her husband's "ftngers on the town's throat, smiling exactly the sameway" (95); for her piano playing to be "charge[d']" "to the town's completeannihilation"(18). Etc. / ,r) U! ' OlfiJ'

She expresses irritation and disdain for the town's matron( often elough as well. And her when she doesso, she(often much more the truant adolescentwho is fed up with paternal

limits than shedoesthe cowering child who could be madeto fiddle with her little upron{Ond in theseinstances, most definitely evidences needto know that "adults will help keep [her] she her


greed, frustration, othernegative and k" in emotions chec (224)-flr.Btanley t. . .1anger,


have satisfiedwhen we were young, but might have missedout

If readers missed ffi out
her expressionof rage,and "sharing" in experiencinghaving her more truant behavior kept in describes truant behaviorso that we likelv sensein her a desire her t and reprimanded. One descriptionin particular could not make her more seenan adolescent with designsto arouseparentalanger-namely, when shedescribes how sheallowed "grizzled, dirty-looking men" (103) to give her a ride back home to Horizon. We note that she could have had them drop her off beforeshereached town, but that shepreferredto seeif shecould sneakinto "Main Streetunobserved" (103). Of course, endsup finding herself"tongue[-tied]" she and "helpless" ( I 03) beforethe Horizon matrons. Shepretends that shehopedto avoid sucha fate, but nowhereelse doesshe seemmore the unreliablenarratorthan shedoeshere: That is. since throughoutthe text shedescribes how Horizon's "eyes" are foreverwatching her, it is difficult for

us to believethat shedidn't at somelevel expectand evenhopeto haveher truant behaviornoJic0-d


feelings of claustrophobia, often doesso through tightly packedsentences--{neswith she clumped adjectiveor noun clusters. Her housewas originally describedto us as 'oasmall, squat, grayish house [which] t. . .l pushedup againstthe big, glum, grayish shulsh"-1he adjective clusterslikely help convey the smotheringcloseness betweenthe two structures.This description occursin her third journal entry, one which delineates why her houseis depressing, why it seems as if it was constructedso that it affords little privacy from onlookers-and this entry in particular,

,.Mxry4ffi-?T ',ITffi:ru,;,?Wry-v

is filled with theseclusters. We hear of the "insistent little bright pink rosesthat stareat you like



eyes"(17),ofthe smell,whichis "notjust a bad,aggressive just smell, a passive, clingingone,"of the "faded old carpets, trying the hard,leathereasychairswith brokensprings"(18). And aswe readthroughherjoumal, we encounter many more suchclusters. In regardsto the heat,for example, hearthat it is "dense, we rigid, heaf'(l l0), "dense, sicklyheat' (114), "dense, clotted heat" (150). And it is no wonderthat shewantsto flee the "hot, dry, dusty little cupboardof a house"(93),for whenwordsare"jam[med][. . .] up soclose"(56),theyarelikely to helpconvey to the readerMrs. Bentley's own sense living in Horizon means feel caughtwithin a "vice" that to

(2t). v
But contrathe opinion of literary critics suchasDavid Stouckwho believethat Mrs. Bentley's ( 103), mayb,e manyreaders "narration" "claustrophobic" is it that ultimately experience


herjoumal asmore spacious thantight and smothering.HelenBussunderstands Mrs. Bentley's "abandon[ment] ofthe structured, practiced world ofthe pianistfor the 'longer,looser mode' [...] ofthe diarist"(193)asaneffective means herto feel lessconstrained. we should for But notethat


feel lesscramped. Sometimes, course, Augustanphrasingis usedto help makea sentence of the feel "armoured,""steeledagainstthe world"-a means perhaps usingherjournal to help of buttress deflectthe pressing and environment.Shewritesthat sheandher husband's "musclesand lungsseem[ed] pitted to keepthe walls from caving in" (97); the key nounsin this sentence-"muscles,""lungs," "walls"-are spaced apartfrom oneanother,andmay indeedbe experienced the readerasifthey aresupportive by passage, declares that columns. In the same she "[t]he wind andthe sawingeaves the rattle of windowshavemadethe housea cell" (97); yet and againshespaces pressingsubjects that the sentence the itselfmay feel more likely a sturdily so

,:ffi :::: ."-, #;'fr ;ffi."ffiffi,;::::::, :::..T,



constructed and roomy housemore than it doesa tight cell. Often, however,her diary is written as / if in fact sheexperiences everydayworld asnicely spaced her and roomy. We may be so well cued to attendto her tightly clusteredsentences to her more overtly composedAugustansentences, and that we might forget that many and maybe most sentences the text read quite casually. We get, in for instance: "We had eggsand breadand butter and tea, and a spoonful of honey for Steve" (7);

N [$ r{ N \s

and, "[m]y peasand radishesare coming through. I spenta long time up and down the rows this morning, clearing away the dust that was drifted over them; and at intervals, so that I wouldn't attracttoo much attention" (89); and, "Philip needsshoesand a hat. His Sundaysuit is going at the cuffs again,and it's shiny at the seatand knees" (53). This is pedestrian subjectmatter,presented to us in an everyday,easefulfashion. Rather than rushed and packed,then, many of the sentences structured so that they are seemspaciousand unhurried,if not always loose.They may perhapswork in tandemwith all the repetitiousimagery to help make the text itself actually seempleasantlyvariant. That is, without easyand easingsentences structures, without at least somereappearing and familiar imagery,the text might be experienced too varying too be easeful. But as is, it may for the readerprove akin as to a rather enjoyable"window shopping" experience, perhapsakin to the sort Mrs. Bentley might have enjoyed at Christmashad it not proved to remind her of her own poverty (194). We encounterthe employmentof a pleasingvariety of different mythic pantheons (Greek, Christian, Nordic, Gothic), for example. Soil, earth,and metal imagery is put to various and interestinguse, too. I have already suggested that shapes affect our phenomenological appreciationof the text (circles,too, we note, easily affect our readingexperienceas much as squares and trianglesdo), and colours, in particular, also atlractnotice. She indeedshowcases them, makesthem seem relevant,interesting,and even delightful and surprising-as if they are clues to better



understanding whatever"object" they are associated with. We likely sense that somethingof Judith's oddness to do with her "queer white skin" (2ll), that somethingimportant lies behind has Mr. Bentley's decision( in regards the choiceof colour for Steve'scoat) to "cast his vote for to blue" (53), that Paul's "bright red spottedhanderchief is what surely lends him his "histrionic dash"(53), that El Greco's"greenand shin[y]" (169) eyesarewhat makehim seemwolf-like, that Mrs. Holly's "green,freshly-laundered dress,and [. . .] greenribbon" (35) is what makesMrs. / Bentley greenwith envy: "with clotheslike that I might be just as attractive" (35). v As Bussnotes,thereis in fact a greatdeal of play madewith the imagery in the text, as Mrs. Bentley experimentshere and therewith the potential the "words of her diary offer her" (198) to emancipate herself. Shebelievesthat Mrs. Bentley, "given t. . .] only the narrow private world in which to exerciseher creativity, useswhat shehas, in the way a male artist might use the larger world at his disposal,asmaterialfor the realizationof the self ' ( I 9S). But if the psychologists who arguethat thosewho had immaturemothersend up inhibiting their participation in the "larger world" for fear of evoking memoriesof maternaldisapprovalare coffect, readersneednot be


hemmedin women to enjoy witnessing/experiencing how Mrs. Bentley makesuse of whateveris at hand to empowerand "realize" (198) herself. But beforedelineatinghow shesubvertsimagery originally associated with maternaloppressors empowerherself,it is worth noting that as a to

journal writer she is in a position to readily imagine herself as empoweredover her readers-and certain sectionsin particular certainly read as if she craftedthem with readersin mind. Though I maintain that the text probably feels lesstenseand densethat somecritics have assumed readerlikely experiences as, shedoesat times make the readerfeel constrictedand a it fearful. She seems intentionallymove from spaced (Augustan)to tighter phrasingat times so as to

to ensurethat if someone to were to read her journal, s/hewould be encouraged replicateher own


ostensible tight andfearfulstate.For instance, followsup tellingusthat"[t]he sunthrough she the dustlooksbig andred andclose"(96),by tellingus thatit is "[b]igger,redder, closerevery day" (96): shehelpsensure for a moment too aremorelikely to experience doomed that we feeling, "a (96). Like Shelley *ux: [to fear]thatthereis no escape"

to do in hispoesy, at timesseems she


to momentarily co-opt the force, sway and will of the wind to makeus feel its varying impact up on her, especiallywhen shetells us that: Sometimesit sinks a little, as if spentand out of breadth,then comeshigh, shrill and importunateagain. Sometimes blusteringand rough, sometimessilent and sustained. it's


Sometimesit's wind, sometimes frightenedhandsthat shakethe doors and windows. 52. We too are encouraged deemthe wind o'nerve-wracking" to (52); but it was the delineationof the wind's characteristics the paragraph, power over us asjournal writer, which ultimately in her servedto rattle our nerves.In addition, shemay make not only the Horizon denizensbut the reader as well seem"small," when, after delineatingtheir particulars,shejudges those shemeetsin

\\i$ $ 3] lJ$ ,{\

Horizon as not meaningfully different from similar othersshehasencountered previously in other

towns. The power writing affords her to shapea world may indeedbe inspiring to thosewho feel adverselyshapedby the world aboutthem. It may move readers indulge in someof the power a to



persecutorhas, an indulgencesomereadersmight alreadybe familiar with (witnessthe blossomingof onlinejournals in this 9-11 era) as they deleteor edit entriesfrom thosewho visit their onlinejournal sites. But though I think sheat times (andperhaps often) writes with readersin mind, and though I think sheexploits her power as narratorso asto not just delineatetruth for, but

to effect harm/trumiliationsupon, her readers,I do agreewith Buss in her assessment Mrs. that Bentley seemsmostly motivatedto make use of words to empowerher over thosewho oppress her. /


finally contrivesmeansby which to rebuff the town's matrons,Mrs. Bentley makesuse of swordsman/fighter imageryto delineatehow shefeels and behaves.Of course,sheoften describes herself as 'osteeling" herself againsther environment(her husband,in particular, is frequently describedas having stealor leadeneyes---ones, note, that can "clear a room" [ 16]), but it is we really when she likens herselfto a sword wielder who parriesblows that she effectively co-opts this imagery to make herselftemporarily seeman equalto the town's matriarch,to the town's matrons' manipulations. After successfullyusing scriptureto legitimateher claim to Steve,she writes, "I parried them, cool and patient" (81). Her successful rebuff enablesher to feel protected, as if shetoo now possesses "false front" (81), that is, a structurewhich heretoforein the text had a beenassociated with Horizon's smotheringdrabness, also with its resilienceand persistence. but She had needof such a structure,for heretoforethe influenceof Horizon's matrons' disapproval

them knows. They can only readour shingle,all its lettersfreshened this afternoon,As For me up and My House-The House of Bentley-l4re Will Servethe Lord (81). The pressingforcesmay also seemrebuffed by the way in sheimaginesher husband's



office space. That is, though shefinds a way to imagineher home,which had previously only been portrayedas somethingwhich was pitted againsther, as an o'ally,"shefirst describes husband's her study as "always loyal to him" (85). It rebuffs all intruders;and it may in fact be describedas a "stronghold" (85) so that Mrs. Bentley better imaginesit as an effective counterto the "stone walls" sheknew shewould repeatedly knock her headagainstin vain while in Horizon. He and his office spaceareat times madeto possess power akin to that possessed wildernesshills. In by


referenceto the hills, she say, o'Weclimb them, but they withstandus, remain as sereneand unrevealed ever. t. . .] We shrink from our insignificance" as (l3l). And in reference her to husbandand to his study, she says: I like Philip's study,but I'm seldomin it. Not evenwhenhe's out, exceptto cleanand dust. It's reservedsomehow,distant,just like him. It's always loyal to him. It seesand knows him for what he really is, but it won't let slip a word. This study and the othersbefore it-they're all the same. You don't obtrude. You don't take liberties. It's like being a child in the presence grown-upswho have troublesthat can't be explainedto you. The of book understand, you don't. 61. but It may be that Mr. Bentley's association with the hills might serveto help counterhis association

tF \$





with the mountainous,maternalchurch,an "entity," which though it first promisedescape, proved

to be one which circumscribedhis life. He is mostly certainlymadeto seema potentialrival to the town's leadingmatriarch-Mrs.

Finley, for just after delineatingMrs. Finley's ability to manage town, Mrs. Bentley informs us the that her husband"has a way of building in his own image,too" (9). But we note that after first establishinghis potential to be an upstart,Mrs. Bentley frequentlydelineates how weary he has

become. She may at times needfor him to be wearv. needto think of him as weary. out of



"deference"to a superiorneedmany readersmay also share,namely, aneed to feel secure: she needsto know that if she leavesa dispiriting but familiar life that sheis preparedfor what may lie ahead. Thosewho flee the town unprepared, note, often suffer grim fates. Judith, we are told, we when shesuddenlyleft her family to seekwork abroad,couldn't manageher way in the world, and

El Greco perishes,after suddenlyfollowing upon his instinct to make for the wilderness. That is, when shewrites that "with a man like Philip, you don't predict the future from the past" (15), she expresses fears as well as her hopes.Sheneedsto imagine him as strong and unpredictable, her as "an existentialhero" (Moss l4l), so that he seemswell constitutedto lead her away from a dispiriting life, but shefearshis strengthand erratic naturebecause could leave her once again it journal feeling alone, abandoned and fearful. But Mrs. Bentley provesnot just an empowered


\teY:,tf V


writer-shealso effective an manager. sfrfil@r*age


herhusband a terrier like mighta

prevent for exrr:ssr{L8 hatred a moment shedoes him his at whichwouldhave

't ,ftn}f/t"iili"*,-ror"-mature

eviction fro-.*r@pnsecure

readers wantto atease feel while



c'/' ,lP

^ readingthe text, it may be that they find her actionpleasing,for theytoo might not want to risk (at
somelevel) re-experiencing (abandonment maternalabandonment from a maternal environs-Horizon). So thoughMrs. Bentley blamesherselffor doing so, it was the right "move": sheneededtime to betterprepareherself so that departurefrom her previous familiar life would seemlessthreateningand more "right" (i.e., lessblameworthy,less self-indulgent). Thoughnearthe end ofthe text Mrs. Bentleywrites that sheis not "progressing" (196),this may not actually be the case. We know that she saysthis at a time when she is successfully accumulatingsufficient funds to enablea new life for herself,that is, while she is hoarding cash. And shemay in fact be using herjournal to progressivelywork toward conclusivelybelieving that shedeserves make use of it to satisfuher (that is, not just Philip's)r--ratherthan someone to



else's-needs. Her journal, we note,is repletewith delineations how impoverished is. She of she


lives a drab and disappointinglife: we hear,for instance,of her drab house,her drab dress,and her (ostensibly) drab (sameol' sameol') everydayexperiences. how Justas often, shedelineates otherslive nowherenear as drably as shedoes. Every once in awhile sheexpresses belief that her shesurely deserved more, but shesayssuchwith more conviction asherjournal progresses, is, that

i$ $t

after anotherkey plot developmentoccurs,namely, her own husband'saffair with Judith. This is quite the betrayal,and doesenonnousharm-for shehad earliermadeclearthat his attentioncould

have made her life in Horizon, bearable. But is also very enabling,for shewrites that since"he's beenunfaithful to [her] [. . .], [she]ha[s] a right now to be free" (163). That is, his betrayalenables herto move toward deemingsatisfyingher life's desires,righteous. We note that shortly after she makesthis assertion, how aggressively complainsof others' indulgences. Thinking of she paymentsowed to them by Kirby (a town they had once lived in), she says,"There wasn't a woman in the congregationwhoseclotheswere as dowdy and plain as mine. They never missed their little teasand bridge parties" (165). She seemspurposeful,certain,and enraged. Sheadmits that she"want[s] to get awaynow more than ever" (166), and may now be ready for the move; for if she and her husbandmoved on to a better life, their efforts to effect such wouldn't as likely be underminedby pressingfeelingsthat their happiness undeserved, is that is, by guilt. This is how masochistwould undermineany success they achieved,or ruin any acquisition they acquired,and by so frequentlymaking use of her journal to delineateall the various wounds Horizon and her husbandhaveinflicted upon her, shegives every appearance being a masochist. of But if sheisn't, many of her readers is might well be. For as Rheingoldexplains,masochism the meansby which we fend of feelingsof abandonment and maternalretribution. "It takes its origin in the child's compliancewith or appeasement the destructiveattitudesand impulsesof the of

sq \.1




mother" (21), and helps the child pretendthat s/heisn't really attendingto his/her own needs, really isn't behavingso as to be worthy of maternalpunishment. The text, though,ffi&y help

rpl,t -l


readers feelingthat they too can narratetheir own life sothat self growth seems in , . masochistic more"allowable." Maybe,theymightbemorelikely to conclude, others thereareindulging out

lU,t -1,
Y- rlry ry6y

much much more than they are: oerhaos morethantheyare: perhaps arethe oneswho deserveounishment- Mavbe- thev mish they thev arcthe punishment. whodeserve ones Maybe, theymight theirownsuffering sacrifice been and has such theyareentitled a reprieve, that to that

";nn:r\:nclude, arenowentitled some to pscyhohistorians thattheancients to happiness. Some argue used W{"ey a themselves theywereentitled keep that to theirchildren sacrificing by theirfirst bomto ?Ur,| .convince (deMause ancestors 137).Thelogicbeing thesacrifice thefirstchildenabled to that of them i{O/yir O)W feelmore rcstrnorcEnrrueo Keep entitled keep to ro subsequent rernapstne loglc sull noloslor Inosewno cteaflyare suDsequeff ones. ones.Perhaps logicstillholds those the for whoclearly are ft nY \b
;* Yl/ Uf not infanticidal, is, perhaps lossof those keeps-SteveandEl Greco-might helpMrs. that the she

and ,At Bentleyfeel moreentitledto keepwhat shereally wants-namely, her husband Judith's child.
And just as shedeemedKirby's indulgent behaviora reasonto asserther firm claim to the money the town owed them, Judith's indulgencemight make her feel more entitled to take her (i.e., Judith's) baby away from her. At one point in her journal she suggests it that Horizon is unnaturaland "wrong" because doesnot move with the earth's underlying rhythms. For suchdisregardand disrespect, is it obstinateand "insolent" (23), i.e., bad. We note, then, that shemight make her own escapeseem natural and thereforeo'right,"for it is madeto seemin accordwith a rhythm,that of expulsion following inflation, which seems determinehow and when relevant"objects" appearand to disappearfrom Horizon. Just before"they t[ook] Steve away" (I52), shetells us that the heat of the town "had beengatheringand tightening[. . .] for weeks" (150). Shewrites that "[i]t's like watching an inflated, ever distendingballoon, waiting with batedbreathfor it to burst" ( 150). Just


beforethey "lost El Greco" (196), we are told that after looking "at the housesand thinking of all the suspense excitementinside," after thinking of how in contrasther own "little house t. . .] and seemedt. . .] deadand dry [,]" that she felt "like an abscess [was] gathering[inside her] [. . .] attendance the to [which promised]release"(195). Especiallygiven the text's substantial Bentley's needfor a child, the plotting shesetsup may at somelevel be understood the readeras by one of birth following late term pregnancy. It may be that her exodusfrom town seemsnatural because follows, "hitches a ride with," her husband'sbaby's emergence it from Judith's birth canal. And it may be too that her exodusis primed/timed so as to seemas if it might be overlooked,because Horizon's predatorialdesireand attentionmight be satiatedby and attendant upon the adulteress Judith's demise(which, we note, is [essentially]concurrentwith the baby's birth). Would an insecurereaderbenefit from witnessing/experiencing Bentleys' birth into a "new world." Maybe so. They might find their own emergence from the textual world lessjarring. More substantively, they might at somelevel sense that when the world about them feels most oppressive, most depressing and dispiriting, there might-somewhere in the horizon-in fact be a promising new world, awaiting to emerge. In the meantime,the text might well have servedas an empoweringretreat-that is, as a reasonubl ith the narrativeand reasoningresources they might useto managethe world, as is. lu.,

WorksCited Buss, Helen.ooWho you,Mrs.Bentley? are As Feminist Re-vision Sinclair Ross's For Me and and My House." SinclairRoss's For Me andMy House: Five Decades Criticism. Ed. As of DavidStouck. Toronto:University Toronto Press, 1991.190-208. of Cantor, Norman. TheAmerican Century: Varieties Culturein ModernTimes.New York: of

tr^^i M",rar
; #,tt ,>(.rtF aM ^a,-aa,D'-t -- f -f,/;a/n a'h? Alntf

l/c/ Jll-ru




Harper Perennial,1997 . DeMause,Lloyd . Foundationsof Psychohistory. New York: CreativeRoots, 1982 Gerrig, Richard J. Experiencing It{arcativeWorlds: On the Psychological Activities of Reading. New Haven: Yale University Press,1993. Greenspan,Stanley. The Growth of the Mind: And the EndangeredOrigins of Intelligence. New York: Addison-Wesley, 1997. 's Kroetsch,Robert. "Fea.rof Women in Prairie Fiction." Sinclair,i?oss As For Me and My House.

Afterword. As For Me and My House. By Sinclair Ross. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart,

Moss, John. "Mrs. Bentley and the Bicameral Mind." Sinclair Ross's For Me and My House. As 138-48. Rheingold, JosephC. The Mother, Araiety, and Deoth: The Catastrophic Death Complex. Boston: Little, Brown and Compmy, 1967. Ross,Sinclair. As For Me and My House. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart,1989. Ryan, Marie-Laure. Narrative as Virtual Reality: Immersion and Interqctivity in Literature and Electronic Media. Baltimore: JohnsHopkins University Press,2001. Stouck,David. "Mrs. Bentley: Her Journaland Her Marriage." Sinclair Ross's As For Me and My House 95-103. Van der Kolk, Bessel. "The Compulsionto Repeatthe Trauma: Re-enactment, Revictimization, and Masochism." PsychiatricClinics of North America. 12.2(19S9): 389-41l. Vickroy, Laura. Trauma and Survivol in ContemporaryFiction. Virginia: University of Virginia Press.2002


TermPaperEvaluation student: /qr{r**b nkrfury0


(1)SUBJECT, CONTENT, |DEAS, CONTRTBUTTON TO KNOWLEDGE: Originality, insight, sophisticationideas of and analysis; relevance substantialitydiscussion; and of intelligent engagement the primary andcritical of text discourse surrounding it; attention the relation formto content the storyunder to of in consideration; attention thetheoretical cultural to and contexts and implications chosen of topic (2)ARGUMENT: Clarity, accuracy, thoroughness, and effectiveness thesisstatement; of articulation the essay's of central concerns ideas; and initial definition keytermsand of concepts; pacing, clarity, accuracy, organization, development, coherence, cohesiveness argument; and of correct, balanced, appropriate of citedmaterial; use effective of directcitation in use points; support individual of effective integration citedmaterial of intoargument (3) RESEARCH: Evidence secondary of reading areaof in chosen topic;situation argument of relative othercritics to and workin the field;relevant, intelligent, useful engagement of secondary sources; awareness fulltheoretical of implications of general argument; awareness relevant of materials critical on chosen subject; evidence original of research (4) STYLE:Rhetorical precision, effectiveness, clarity, directness, grammar, and correctness style, of expression; conformity to accepted standards presentation academic for research; of precise accurate of literary otherterminology; and use and evidence thorough of editing revision; and (5) FORMAT: Correct of MLAformat use font, throughout: front pageheadings, in-text citations, workscitedpage,spacing and justification, neatness overall presentation etc.; and PENALTIES






s+'lft 1100