Kids, reading, and "good" lit...

Hallie O'Donovan hallieod at indigo.ie
Tue Aug 10 11:28:17 EDT 1999


Tanaquil wrote (9th August)
>    I think it started with Mary Ann's response to Jessie's post
>   So, yes, you two are responsible!

Sorry to Mary Ann and Jessie.  I did know there were earlier posts, but
they were buried deep in my in-box, and it was 11:30 pm, and I didn't quite
have the energy to dig them out (Ha!  The Bad Housekeeper.  A story of how
we ought not to be.)

>        I hope you're joking about that.

I wouldn't say precisely joking.  But it was tongue-in-cheek.  I suppose I
was trying to do a Sophie interpretation of why I mightn't notice that
Sophie's interpretation of herself was skewed, thereby proving that my
interpretation of myself was skewed similarly!  (And they say women can't
think clearly!)

Another idea has started coming up for me here.  Maybe I'll throw it out,
and it'll be transformed into something coherent and really interesting by
you all.  I warn you, this is a very major issue (argh, that word again!)
for me, and I'm probably seeing it everywhere just at the moment.   It
relates to the question of children being listened to.  One of the stories
we thankfully don't hear much any more is the old "Children should be seen
and not heard" rubbish.  And yet...
I suppose this is the flip side of Deborah's "Ingary is telling Sophie many
stories of how she ought to be".  Sophie has been listening, but have other
people been listening to her?  It's certainly a much stronger theme in F &
H, with Ivy and Reg absolutely incapable of listening to Polly, and indeed
having a vested interest in *not* listening.  Tom, of course, offers the
contrast of listening to her, until (from the best of motives) he shuts her
off too.  It's absolutely gut-wrenching when Tom starts treating Polly the
way Mary Fields (ugh) does, and, for me, at least, made Polly's behaviour
completely understandable.  Gran tries to be a listener, and is, except
when she hits walls and can't comprehend things, based on her own (very
lonely) experience.   The parents not listening theme appears again in
Christopher Chant, obviously, and probably others.

Yes, as I'm sure is readily apparant, I am relating to this issue on the
basis of personal experience.   As I wasn't physically abused,  I spent a
long time feeling that I'd no right to complain, when so many other people
had it so much worse.  But that active not listening is really denying the
other person the right of a voice, and in effect, denying their very
personhood - the essense of emotional abuse.   The process of trying to
sort through this has involved first of all having to come to terms with
the fact that I had been hurt (I can't tell you how many times my therapist
made me answer "how did that make you feel?"), and only then starting to
learn to listen to myself.

To tie this back in, perhaps we could draw a two-fold message from these
books taken together.  It's not just that we all are ultimately responsible
for our own lives, though of course that's vital.  But it's almost as if
there's a prelude to this, which is also vital: that people can do huge
damage to children by refusing to listen to them, thereby making it more
difficult for the children to learn to trust their own voices, take
responsibility for themselves, accept and use their gifts - all that good
stuff. So, at least for some of us, part of accepting control of our own
lives may be first accepting that we're not responsible (and so, culpable)
for our difficulty in doing just that.   Maybe that also steers it a little
away from Mary Ann's
>torts perspective and unilateralness of Howl's attribution.
No blame games, Howl!

This is starting to feel like Quentin's two thousand words in Archer's
Goon.  I'll stop *now*.

Hallie
hallieod at indigo.ie



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