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Penguin Classics. 384 pp. $11
Something happens when you have to read a book for class. It doesn’t matter what book it is or how interesting the plot/characters are. When a professor assigns chapters 1-4 due Thursday, the entire book seems to take forever to read.
I spent way to much time reading this book. It was a good book, don’t get me wrong. I did enjoy the fact that it was quite easy to read and the story was interesting and moved along. However, the characters were a little screwed up.
For starters, there’s Gertrude. She has such an iron grip on her sons that they can’t even like other girls without her getting insanely jealous. Her own marriage is nothing but a glorified roommate agreement, and it appears that she is using her relationship with her sons to replace her relationship with her husband. This is never a good situation. What’s worse, is she’s not even consistent. There’s a scene near the beginning of the book that reveals the story of how she and her husband met. It’s a cute story, but what’s terrible about knowing her marriage is that the reader realizes that her husband is not to blame for her marriage taking a long walk off of a short dock: she is such an intellectual and expects that from her partner. The problem with this is that she married a miner. He loves her, it’s clearly evident in the things that he does for her, but she despises him because he doesn’t hold such stimulating conversations with her. I half expected her to leave her husband for the preacher near the beginning–he was the man that she found her conversation in.
William, her oldest son, at least gets out. Gertrude did one thing right at least–she refused to have her son work in the mines and instead got him a job as a clerk. This allowed him to rise in status. But what Gertrude didn’t realize is that things like this have a way of coming back to bite you. He moves away–as any responsible and healthy child does when they reach a certain age. But he still can’t get away from his mother. She hovers over him to the point that it kills him. Literally.
Paul is the son that drives me completely insane. He has been completely overtaken by his mother. Miriam and he would have made a great pair had he allowed himself to give himself totally to her. But no. Every time he gets close to her, Gertrude steps in the way with her disapproval of the whole ordeal, and Paul pushes Miriam to the side again because his mother comes first. Note: Ladies, this is not a quality to admire in a man. While his brother manages to move to another town, Paul sticks with his mom to the very end. His life revolves around her to the point that his identity only exists within his mother’s attention to him. I never really got Paul: in my mind he was either gay, a lover or a very small little boy when he was around his mother. Freud would have a field day.
Through Paul’s relationship with his mother the reader realizes that Gertrude wants someone that she can care for and that worships her more than she wants someone she can hold a decent conversation with. William and her have a very special bond, but it’s still in the realm of decency between mother and son. They talk, and it really seems that they have a healthy relationship outwardly. But while she gets her conversation with William, Paul becomes her pet. He breaks up with Miriam multiple times because Gertrude said, “she’s going to take you away from me.” There are moments between Paul and his mother that make the reader cringe and squirm a little with how uncomfortable it is. No son should call his mother “dear” and “Pigeon.” And when William dies and Gertrude is completely overwhelmed with misery–makes sense–Paul turns into this spoiled child that can’t stand not to have the attention on him for a few minutes. Finally Paul can’t take it anymore, he gets sick not having his mother dote upon him. That snaps Gertrude back–she can’t have another son die. As soon as Gertrude’s attention is back on Paul, magically he gets better
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