Monday, February 27, 2017

The Good Mother

Sue Miller’s 1988 novel The Good Mother raises a great many questions about the guilt and punishment men mete upon women’s sexual impulses and deeds.   Anna (as in Anna Karenina?) divorces her husband and maintains custody of her small daughter. Then her lover, appropriately named Leo Cutter, enacts a mild, yet still disquieting, sexual misdeed with Anna's daughter.  Cutter, true to his name, does just that: cut off Anna's primary contact to her daughter, while at the same time bruising and damaging her self-worth, and strength of will.  He finished the job her first husband stared.

Reading this book is disquieting on another level.  Here we have another story illustrating that women will invariably be punished for having, and especially enjoying, sex.  Is Miller reinforcing this paradigm or stereotype, or simply laying out a dynamic that already exists?  Do we need such stories anymore, or are they just the confining narrative of patriarchy?  

This is difficult to know for certain; all that we know is that in The Good Mother, a woman can’t be a good mother and enjoy good sex.  Why this is or even is case, is left for us to decide.

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