ERIC Number: ED328910
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1988
Reference Count: N/A
Safety, Risk, and Recovery: Women and Men as Parents in Contemporary American Fiction. Working Paper No. 179.
Gullette, Margaret Morganroth
In contemporary American fiction, children are still dying. On the scale of innocence and guilt, there is a complete range, in 13 contemporary novels studied, from cases where the parents are clearly "innocent," to cases where they are clearly guilty. The novels are not about the children but instead are about the fictional midlife character who stands in for the reader. These plots are fundamentally about aging. Children have become signs of the burdensome responsibility of adulthood, and novels about the death of children reflect or utilize great anxiety about parenting. Plots in which children die emphasize the vulnerability of children in order to heighten the sense of risk for their parents. In these fictions, the most anxious parents are the very ones who kill their children. These novels can be divided roughly into two camps: recovery novels and decline novels. Recovery novels value memory; they trust the process of healing that occurs over time. The decline narrative is not heavy on expository comment but it implies decline by various narrative strategies. Time is a friend in recovery novels, but friendship can work slowly. One way recovery novels differ among themselves is in showing how active a character can be in reducing grief, regaining control, and restoring self-esteem. The decline novel maximizes shock, helplessness, guilt, and loss as the content of adulthood, making this type of novel appear timeless and irreversible. (Fifteen endnotes are included and a 13-item bibliography is attached.) (MG)
Publication Type: Information Analyses
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: Wellesley Coll., MA. Center for Research on Women.