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The Civil War

by: Amanda Cooper

The Civil War history 2

Amanda Cooper

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July 20 2016
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This 4 page Class Notes was uploaded by Amanda Cooper on Wednesday July 20, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to history 2 at University of Alabama - Tuscaloosa taught by in Summer 2016. Since its upload, it has received 8 views.


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Date Created: 07/20/16
Cooper 1 Amanda Cooper Mrs. Clark English IV 8 March 2016 The Fifth Child Essay “Normal” is defined by Merriam­Webster as “being usual or ordinary: not strange;  mentally and physically healthy.” Everyone wants to be considered not in society. If you are not  “normal” you are “weird.” In order to be considered normal, one usually acts a different way in  public than he/she would in private. In “The Rocking Horse Winner” by D.H. Lawrence, “I  Stand Here Ironing” by Tillie Olsen, and The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing, we are presented  with characters who desire to appear “normal,” but are simply not normal.  In the short story “The Rocking Horse Winner,” Paul, the only son of a family who is  considered to be normal to the people in its society, is not normal. In this story, Paul’s family is  not really normal; it shows a false persona to the people outside the household in order to  maintain its status of being normal. Paul’s family is considered to be quite wealthy and normal,  however behind closed doors it is anything but that. At the beginning of the story, we are told  that Paul’s mother, Hester, does not like her children. No one in their society would ever believe  this if someone told them because the family pretends when in the presence of others so that they might appear to be a normal family. The narrator says, “Only she herself, and her children  themselves, knew it was not so. They read it in each other’s eyes.” Not only do they pretend to  be normal, but they also pretend that they are wealthy. One might easily be convinced of this  given the large house Paul’s family lives in, but there is a constant money issue in their  Cooper 2 household. It is revealed in the story that Paul is “lucky” and can accurately guess which horses  will win races. Paul uses his luck to win his mother money, but the mother immediately spends  the money so that they can continue to keep up the family’s lavish appearance to society. The  narrator says there was “…a blossoming of the luxury Paul’s mother had been used to.” The  mother feels a need to buy things if she is to continue her normal appearance to her society.  In “I Stand Here Ironing,” a girl named Emily has a similar situation to Paul in “The  Rocking Horse Winner.” Emily, also, does not receive all the care that she should from her  mother. At a young age, Emily is sent away from her mother so that her mother can go to work  and provide money for Emily since her father leaves the two to fend for themselves. Emily’s  mother says, “I had to work her first six years when there was work, or I sent her home and to his relatives.” Once Emily’s mother has sufficient money and Emily is returned to her, her mother  has married someone and is having babies with this new man. Emily’s mother becomes more  concerned with her children’s upbringings than with Emily’s. Emily is deemed as abnormal by  her school principal and he says, “She’s a youngster who needs help.” Emily’s mother is not  interested in helping her; she knows Emily is not normal and does not believe that that will  change.  Similar to Emily’s mother, Ben Lovatt’s mother, Harriet, knows that her son will also  never be “normal” in The Fifth Child. According to Norma Rowen, when David and Harriet get  married, “they seek to return to the world of the Victorians, that supposed paradise of lost  stability and security that preceded their own.” David and Harriet desire to live a perfect and  normal life with a normal family. Up until their fifth child, David and Harriet appear to be living  this life. When Ben is born, he “parodies their ideals and assumes the form of everything they  Cooper 3 have sought to shut out.” Unlike Emily and Paul’s mothers, Harriet gives a “heroic effort at  mothering.” Harriet saves Ben from the institution that her mother­in­law sends him to and  works with him to try and make him understand how to act “normal.” Harriet says to David  “He’s our child” and David responds with “No he’s not. Well, he certainly isn’t mine.” Even  when her husband disowns Ben, she continues to try and help him. Norma Rowen says, “Ben,  complete and autonomous, is a creature of another species. He cannot be patched up, made over,  or restructured. He is as he is.” This is something that Harriet does not understand. She wants  Ben to be normal so that her family can keep the “normal” standard that it has before Ben.  In “The Rocking Horse Winner,” “I Stand Here Ironing,” and The Fifth Child, Paul,  Emily, and Ben, successively, are not considered normal by society’s standards. Their actions  throughout the short stories and novel are not accepted as normal. Paul and Emily’s  abnormalities stem from their lacking of a mother figure. Ben, on the other hand, is simply an  abnormal person who cannot be helped. If these characters want to be considered normal, they  would have to act in a different way when in public; this is not to say that they actually have to  change who they are. In order to be considered normal by society, you only have to act like you  are in public. Society does not care who you truly are behind closed doors because it will never  know. Society is flawed in this way because not everyone is going to be normal. Norma Rowen  says that The Fifth Child is “perhaps suggesting that if our humanity is to endure, this  intractability must be acknowledged, in the sense of recognized and accepted.” Abnormality  makes society uncomfortable; this is why society desires normality. The fact of the matter is that  there are Ben’s, Emily’s, and Paul’s in our world, and we are going to have to accept them  because not everyone is going to be normal.  Cooper 4


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