Parent-Child-Relationships in Canadian Literature (King, Thomas: Green Grass, Running Water; Laurence, Margaret: A Bird in the House)
There are many different kinds of parent-child relationships: On the one hand there is the ‘perfect’ relationship, which means that the parents love their children and they love their parents. This seems to be wonderful, but there are also problems. For example, in some cases the people love their children so much that they become thoroughly spoilt. On the other hand there is the total ‘family disaster’, which means that in some cases the parents don’t even have any contact with their children. Unfortunately, there are many relationships which have this character. All in all, it is very difficult for parents to build up a really good relationship to their children. Childhood is the most important time in a human’s life: The children see their parents as the ‘best’ people in the world and expect them to behave like this. Later, when the children get older, they develop in different ways and it will be more difficult for the parents to do the right things. So, the expectations of the children remain the same, but they make it more difficult for their parents. In this way, there can develop many problems.
Such parent-child relationships are one of the main subjects in A Bird in the House by Margaret Laurence and Green Grass, Running Water by Thomas King. These two novels are about relationships and in which way these relationships work. Furthermore, it is talked about different kinds of people’s behaviour and what effect it has on other people.
A Bird in the House was published in 1970. Margaret Laurence describes “a world of family love and conflict and of a girl’s growing awareness of, and passage into, womanhood” (A Bird in the House: comment on the back). This girl is called Vanessa or simply Nessa. All in all, there are described three main parent-child relationships:
1.) the relationship between Vanessa & her parents Beth and Ewen
2.) the relationship between Ewen & his parents
3.) the relationship between Beth and her sister Edna & their parents
Firstly, we will have a look at the relationship between Ewen and his parents. The relationship to his father, who died a year after Vanessa was born, is described indirectly through a conversation between Ewen and Vanessa in To Set Our House in Order. Here, the reader is told about the fact that Ewen didn’t know very much about his father when he was still alive. Only after his father’s death, he recognised that he was interested in plays in the original Greek, but that seems to be the only thing he really knew about his father: ”He must have been a lonely man, …, Maybe he would have liked to be a classical scholar - I don’t know, …, Maybe he would have liked to talk to somebody about these plays. They must have meant a lot to him”(54). Here one can see that Ewen doesn’t know very much about his father, he can only speculate on him.
In contrast, Ewen seems to know his mother very good and most of the time he puts in a good word for her. The whole family doesn’t really like her and doesn’t understand her behaviour. Ewen tries to be indulgent with his mother and tolerates what she does. For example, Grandmother McLeod wants her daughter-in-law not to work so hard, because she gets a baby. So, she suggests her son to hire a girl for the housework. But when he says that they can’t afford a maid, she gets angry. She would never get the idea to do the housework on her own. I think, another son would have get angry but Ewen doesn’t. He asks Edna, Beth’s sister, to care for the house when Beth is in the hospital. Even then, Grandmother McLeod makes trouble, but Ewen calms her down in spite of also making trouble: “It’ll be all right, …, She’d only be here for part of the day, Mother. You could stay in your room” (51). When the little Vanessa asks his father why her grandmother can’t be nice to them for a change, he comes to his mother’s defence. He tells Vanessa that they have to nice to her, because Grandmother “has had troubles in her life” (55). I think, Ewen wants to make up for the things he couldn’t make right when his father was still alive. He sees that he didn’t care enough about his father, so he doesn’t want to make the same mistake once more. So it is understandable that he is indulgent with Grandmother McLeod. He tries to understand her, but sometimes he hardly can pull himself together: “If you thought she should’ve rested more, why didn’t you ever – oh God, I’m out of my mind tonight” (44) Here you can see that it is hard for Ewen to behave like he wants himself to behave. In my opinion, the mother-child relationship turns to a child-mother relationship. That means that the son takes care of his mother and tries to protect her, and the mother makes life difficult for her son. Normally, it is the other way around.
- Quote paper
- Lysann Hofmann (Author), 2002, Parent-Child-Relationships in Canadian Literature (King, Thomas: Green Grass, Running Water; Laurence, Margaret: A Bird in the House), Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/23056