I accept the day is light.

I accept the dark is night.

I accept wrong is not right.

I accept right can feel tight.

 

I accept tight can be good.

I accept good is misunderstood.

I accept good often hides in a could.

I accept a could would be better a should.

 

I accept my days are numbered.

I accept too soon I will slumber.

I accept it will be unencumbered.

I accept my Lord will remember.

 

Acceptance

 

Minimal is an animal

something quite sustainable

a bird which flies

a pig in a sty

Minimal is hospitable.

Minimal is an animal

something quite attainable

remove your shirt

bathe in the dirt

Minimal is affable.

Minimal is an animal

something quite reasonable

it takes what it needs

does not  over feed

Minimal is admirable.

Daily Post

 

 

 

Silence. It was what she sought out purposefully with all of the intention of a jackhammer breaking apart concrete. It was elusive, however, just like Santa or the Tooth Fairy. She could not remember when this quest for silence began. When she was ten she thought to take a vow of silence, but of course her mother pointed out the impracticality of that idea. How would she be able to answer questions directed to her by her teacher? She would surely be singled out a disrespectful, or even worse, a weird child. And God forbid she fall into a raging river, what then? She would most certainly have to yell for help. Never mind the fact that the nearest river was 62.8 miles away from her house, arguing with her mother was about as futile as hitting a piñata with a pussy willow. After giving it some thought, she was able to resign herself to the death of her vow of silence knowing that it would make very little difference if she still had to listen to the chit and the chatter of everyone else.

All of the chatter and noise that surrounded her was like a hive of bees in her head, a hive that had been knocked down from a tree by a little boy wielding a very big stick. The bees were angry. The bees were loud. And the bees were always buzzing. They chased her thoughts with their stingers ready to strike, dripping not with honey, but with hostility. And so in an attempt to escape the belligerent buzzing of the bees and their eager stingers, she jumped into a lake deep within her mind. She retreated so far within herself that she became lost to those who knew her.

The water was frigid at first, until her muscles relaxed into it. She imagined this was what death was like, a complete and total surrender of flesh, but more importantly, a complete and total surrender of mind. So she adapted ways to remain anchored in this self-made lake. Rocking back and forth, whether sitting at her desk in school or riding in the backseat of her mother’s VW station wagon, the rhythmical rocking was hypnotic and helped to keep her mind still, so still in fact, that the bees could not see her. She was tethered to the bottom of the lake, fixedly floating like an aquatic field of Hydrilla. She could see the tiny specks buzzing above the surface of her lake, like some creation on an etch-a-sketch, searching futilely for her, but she was safe in her underwater sanctuary.

And so the hours turned into days, turning into weeks and months, and as it always happens years began to pass by. So many attempts were made to place a label upon her. Strange, shy, stupid, boring, freak…but the labels never made it to her. They stuck to the surface of her lake, floating like delicate white water Lilies, until the words bled from the paper and the ink turned into beautiful, colored swirls. They became her Aurora Borealis.

I’ve conquered the dark and

the grey in between

the dark and the light

and what is unseen.

I’ve conquered the seen

and all that I know

the fears which seek

to flourish and  grow.

I’ve conquered the heights

and I’ve conquered the depths

I’ve conquered love

in all of its breadth.

But when the day comes

and I draw my last breath

the only thing to conquer

will be my own death.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/conquer/

via Daily Prompt: Echo

Sometimes I hear an echo, only it is not quite a sound but rather a memory. Or perhaps a memory of a feeling. Like yesterday, when I saw him standing there and I felt a giddy sensation of possibility. The new and exciting feeling of “love” that I only remember feeling too many years ago. And it is though I have never felt that feeling before and it is all new and wonderful and filled with a mysterious magic. But I am no longer young and I have felt that feeling before with devastating results. The echo was lovely but now it’s gone and I am finding I am ok with that.

Sometimes I will watch a married couple and I will smile. I will remember the days when I too was married and how, even though there was so much unspoken misery, there was also times of unity. And an echo of that memory when I was not alone but a part of a team, however incomplete that team may have been, will swallow me up and for just one moment I will sigh with relief. But then I remember that I am alone and the only unity I can speak of now is the unity of all of the fractured parts of myself. Yes, the echo was lovely but now it’s gone and I am finding I am ok with that.

Sometimes I will see a commercial, like the Amazon one with the Dad who drops his son off at preschool and peeks through the window to see his son sitting desolate and alone while the other children play. And I will feel the echo of the days my oldest son, who is now nearly fourteen, was in Kindergarten and he was terrified of the boys bathroom and how it sounded as if the whole world would disappear whenever the toilette was flushed. Or I will see a mother in front of my children’s school with a baby and the chubby, fleshy thighs will stir an echo of a memory of my own children when they were just babes, and oh how my heart will swell. And an ache will accompany the memory because those days are gone forever. The echo was lovely but now it’s gone and I am finding I am ok with that.

There are constant echoes of past that sound at different times: days of playing kickball in the old neighborhood covered in dirt and grime and all the signs of childhood happiness, the first kiss that released the bevy of butterflies aching to be free, the roundness of my belly that swelled with life, the long walks with those babies through changing seasons…And the feelings reverberate within my heart as if I am standing on the edge of some great cliff overlooking the world and I am shouting out as loud as I can to the universe, to God,

Thank You.

Flannery O’Connor lived only thirty-nine short years before dying from lupus in 1964, but in those thirty-nine years she left a legacy through her writing. Although she completed two novels, it was her short story collection that left an indelible mark on the literary world. One of her most noteworthy stories, “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” was published in 1953 on the horrific heels of World War II and the devastating act of opening Pandora’s box releasing the atomic bomb, following the Korean War, and during the throes of McCarthyism and witch hunts that defined the Cold War. Considering the violence that permeated the world during her time, it is not a wonder that her writing was also permeated by violence.

As Gretlund and Westarp note in Flannery O’Conner’s Radical Reality, “O’Connor’s fictional world is so full of mental and physical deformities that her fate among readers is often to be placed among the writers off southern gothic whose horrifying characters and plots are seen as decidedly “grotesque” (4). It is from her Southern background and her religious background, Catholicism, which Flannery O’Conner writes with such a unique and disquieting voice.  It is also the conflict between her religious faith and the intellectual, existential, growing mindset of a country bombarded by conflict and death that O’Conner writes: “I dread, Oh Lord, losing my faith. My mind is not strong. It is a prey to all sorts of intellectual quackery. I do not want it to be fear which keeps me in the church” (3).

From a reader response critic’s view point, Bertens explains this kind of critic “mostly starts from the phenomenological position that since we cannot with absolute certainty know that we know the outside world, we must focus on how that world appears to our senses and is constituted by our consciousness” (96). In “A Good Man is Hard to Find” many readers will struggle with the very same conflict that O’Conner writes about: religious faith versus hopeless despair and even worse, an intellectual apathy. Whether the audience lived through the angst and confusion of Vietnam or whether the audience suffers from the post 9/11 terror and the seemingly uncertain beginnings of the 21st century, the reader will most likely be able to recognize the fear through the character of the Grandmother and the apathy which unfolds through the Misfit.

Other themes like the collective feeling of disconnect which comes through the actions of the family (children with their comics, mother with baby, father with his paper, and grandmother…well, grandmother with herself) is also a theme that is relevant today and felt by many people. With the ever growing isolation that social media perpetuates, divorce, and two income families in which infants are sent away to daycare among other social issues, O’Conner’s story will resonate painfully with many readers today.

From a deconstructionist viewpoint, “the words we say or read never achieve stability, not only because they are related to, and take part of their meaning from, the words that have just preceded them, but because their meaning is always modified by whatever follows” (Bertens, 108). It can most certainly be argued that O’Connor’s story is unstable up to the very end and leaves the reader with a continuing sense of instability to take away.

Bertens mentions that the deconstructionist critic believes “…there is a category of literary texts that confess to their own impotence, their inability to establish closure,” which makes them, “far more interesting than texts that try to hide their impotence, such as philosophical texts or realistic novels that claim to offer true representations of the world” (120). O’Conner’s story fills the criteria for a “more interesting” text in that while there is a conclusion (ultimately the death of the entire family) to the story, there is no resolution. The final act of the grandmother of reaching out to the Misfit can be interpreted in more than one way but regardless of the interpretation, there is no closure.

 

Works Cited

Parker, Robert. How to Interpret Literature: Critical Theory for Literary and Cultural Studies. New York: Oxford, 2015. Print.

Rivken, Julie, and Michael Ryan. Literary Theory: An Anthology, 2nd edition. Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 1998. Print.

Tyson, Lois. Critical Theory Today: A User Friendly Guide. New York: Routledge, 2015. Print.

Bertens, Hans. Literary Theory: The Basics. New York: Routledge, 2014. Print.

O’Conner, Flannery. Prayer Journal. New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 2013. Print

 

We have played together underneath the sky so big, so wide. Underneath sunshine we have played in the surf, foamy delight, white surf. I take their little hands – one, two, and three – and we walk through waves. We are pushed and pulled and their laughter floats up to the seagulls. A song fills my head – children’s laughter and screeching seagulls, the crashing surf, the salt-scented wind. We build half-dilapidated sand castles framed by broken sea shells and dried out seaweed. I touch her sun-kissed, freckled cheek with the back of my hand – a mother’s caress.

I am getting tired. Life unfolding, expanding and contracting at the same time. They grow as I shrink. I lay on my back in the hot sand and close my eyes to the warm sun. A rest. A moment. Just one rest for just one moment. Though I do not see them I know they are there. One, two, and three. They are close, ever so close and I fall into bliss with the knowledge.

Time tick tocks by and when I open my eyes the sun is still high in the sky. Seagulls still screech their joy and the wind still blows a salty smell. But they are no longer near. Bliss falling away. My eyes scan the beach until at last they find them. They are walking through the waves hand in hand. They are pushed and pulled and their laughter floats up and is delivered to me on the current of the wind. Gracious wind.

A moment of panic seizes my tired heart. They are going out too far. I am not there; their hands are not in mine. What will happen to them? Just as the thoughts begin to overwhelm me to tears they disappear into the ocean. There is an explosion within my heart, my mind, my soul. They are gone.

As I let out the breath, which has been waiting ever so patiently to be released, I see them. Three smooth, grey-rounded backs and crescent tails. They leap out of the water and disappear again. I stand up and make my way to the crashing surf – foamy delight. But I know I cannot go where they go anymore. The three grey heads turn to look at me and though they are no longer my one, two, and three…they are still my one, two, and three.

They throw their heads back and release a sound, a clicking, a high-pitched noise. They are laughing. Still. I smile to them and lift my hand. Good-bye. I return to my place on the sandy beach amidst half-dilapidated sand castles framed by broken sea shells and dried out sea weed. I am tired. Life unfolding, expanding and contracting at the same time. I lay on my back in the hot sand and close my eyes to the warm sun. A rest. A moment. Just one rest for just one moment. Though I do not see them, I know they are there. One, two, and three. They are close, ever so close and I fall into bliss with the knowledge.

 

 

 

Loyalty is a principle on which many relationships and institutions have been built since the beginning of time. In Shakespeare’s day, if a person was unlucky enough to have his or her loyalty questioned, it could result in their imprisonment, torture, and/or execution. Sometimes they were accused falsely and paid the price for the paranoia that ran rampant at court. Other times, the paranoia had basis and those accused of disloyalty and treason were indeed guilty. Shakespeare captures the predicament of true loyalty versus perceived loyalty perfectly in his play, King Lear, which follows the tragedy and downfall of King Lear when he misjudges the true meaning of loyalty.

Shakespeare certainly had ample enough material to inspire him from current events of the time. One such event was the notorious Gunpowder Plot, which took place a year before the first performance of King Lear, conceived by Catholic citizens who wanted to see England back under the rule of a Catholic. Those same elements defining the story of the Gunpowder Plot are the very elements that Shakespeare uses in King Lear.

The overriding theme of loyalty in the play is a reflection of the overriding theme of loyalty in Elizabethan England. Not only was loyalty to the divinely ordained throne mandated, but also loyalty to the family. The family was considered a microcosm of the kingdom; huge importance was placed on obedience and respect for the hierarchy (Mahabal).  As King James warned Parliament, there was not only the benefit of unity to be considered but the dangers of division (Shapiro 36). The monarchy and stability of the kingdom relied not only on the subject’s loyalty to the monarch but their unity as well.

This idea of loyalty and the necessity of it has not changed since the 1604 when Shakespeare first performed King Lear. Every morning millions of children in the United States pledge their loyalty to the United States government when they say the Pledge of Allegiance. But what is loyalty and is true loyalty rewarded or punished? In this post, the idea of loyalty shown through the dissention of Cordelia and Kent is paralleled with the idea of loyalty through present day whistleblower, Edward Snowden, in order to answer those pertinent questions.

In King Lear, the question of loyalty is presented in the opening scene. King Lear, upon desiring his retirement, decides to split the Kingdom between his three daughters. It is thought that this will also prevent any division or war over the kingdom. Before King Lear divides the Kingdom, he requests that each daughter tells him how much they love him.

Goneril and Regan profess their empty words of affection but Cordelia, whose love is true, refuses to put words to her feelings. King Lear sees this as an offense and a sign of Cordelia’s disloyalty. You mean you’re not going to flatter me? Naturally, He refuses to give her a part of the Kingdom.

Kent, who also holds the King in dear affection, beseeches the King not to do this, that the King is indeed wrong. “Do: Kill thy physician, and the fee bestow upon thy foul disease. Revoke thy doom; or, whilst I can vent clamour from my throat, I’ll tell thee thou dost evil” (I.i.180-184). Once again, King Lear misinterprets true loyalty from Kent as disloyalty and banishes him. This form of narcissism and ignorance of what constitutes loyalty is Lear’s hamartia, the tragic flaw that brings his otherwise successful reign and life to a heartbreaking conclusion.

We can see the importance of loyalty and the swift action against disloyalty in other Shakespearean plays such as Henry the V when Henry must act quickly and decidedly without mercy upon the conspirators including one he holds dear. In that case, Henry was correct in his actions against the conspirators who sought to harm him. King Lear, however, misconstrues Cordelia’s good intentions for bad. This error in judgement becomes the catalyst for disaster. Though the audience can clearly see where true loyalty lies (Cordelia and Kent) and where true deceit lies (Goneril and Reagan), King Lear succumbs to his ignorance until it is too late. The message Shakespeare sends through the idea of misperceived good and misperceived loyalty is the danger that can befall a Kingdom.

In modern times, the idea of loyalty to one’s nation or sovereign is still as relevant. In present day America, there is no King. Citizens pledge their allegiance and loyalty to the nation, which is composed of the citizens. But when the nation’s citizens find fault in the government’s procedures and politics, as did Cordelia and Kent in Lear, if they are truly loyal then they will speak truthfully and defend the good of their nation against the will of their government. On May 13, 2013, a United States citizen by the name of Edward Snowden released top-secret NSA documents to the world: “‘My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them. The US government in conspiracy with client states…have inflicted upon the world a system of secret pervasive surveillance from which there is no refuge'” (Greenwald, 23).

In explaining his motives for what some could conceive of as treason, Snowden says, “I want to spark a world-wide debate about privacy, Internet freedom, and the dangers of state surveillance” (Greenwald 18). Snowden goes on to say, “I am not afraid of what will happen to me. I accept that my life will likely be over from doing this. I’m at peace with that. It’s the right thing to do” (Greenwald, 18).  Kent similarly justifies his actions by his loyalty to Lear: “My life I never held but as a pawn to wage against thy enemies; nor fear to lose it, thy safety being the motive” (I.i.169-171). Cordelia also acknowledges what she has lost through her honesty and true allegiance to the King: “A still-soliciting eye, and such a tongue as I am glad I have not, though not to have it hath lost me in your liking” (I.i.257-259). All three clearly act out of their loyalty for their King and nation even knowing the consequences of that loyalty.

It seems apparent from King Lear that loyalty, while noble and good, if not understood by King as it pertains to Lear or nation as it pertains to Snowden, will lead to nothing. Cordelia gave her life as a result of Lear’s lack in understanding her loyalty, and Kent was left to mourn the King he loved. Snowden lives in exile, away from friends and family and the country he loves, and will most likely die on foreign shores. Is loyalty rewarded? In these two circumstances, no, unless of course loyalty is its own reward and doing the right thing for the sake of what’s right. It seems, given the present day circumstances and liberties being eroded through such things as the Patriot Act and gun legislation, people would do well to remember the tragedy that befell King Lear.

“Some sixty versions of the Lear story were in circulation when Shakespeare set about to dramatize the tale of the old King in 1605. Nobody remembers these prior versions today. But King Lear continues to fill theaters” (McDonald 162). Shakespeare’s ability to tap into the psychology of human nature, translating onto paper and stage the emotions, thoughts, errors, brutality, betrayal, heroism, sorrow and all of the other attributes that define man as something divine and something hellish, is nothing less than brilliant. As each generation comes face to face with the Law of Nature and, what some may argue as the universal morality which inevitably conflicts with subjective morality and self-interest, they too will have to struggle with the same themes in which Shakespeare wrote about over four hundred years ago. From whistle blowers like Edward Snowden to the man contemplating breaking his vows of loyalty and leaving his wife, the theme is timeless. Because of this, Shakespeare is also timeless.

 

Works Cited

Greenwald, Glenn. No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State. NY: Henry Holt and Company, LLC. 2014. Print.

Shapiro, James. The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606. NY: Simon & Schuster. 2015. Print.

McDonald, Russ. The Bedford Companion to Shakespeare: And Introduction with Documents. NY: Palgrave. 2001. Print.

Mahabal, Prasad. “Daily Life in England during the Elizabethan Era”. Elizabethan England Life. 2015. Web. 19 Jan 2016.

Fraser, Antonia. Faith and Treason: The Story of the Gunpowder Plot. NY: First Anchor Books. 1997. Print

Shakespeare, William. King Lear, Modern Library Paperback Edition. NY: Modern Library. 2009. Print.

 

 

There are multiple ways to experience life as there are multiple ways to experience literature. We each, individually, experience both in our own unique way, with our own ideologies guiding us, and looking through the lenses of our own subjectivity. This is deconstruction; it does not take the meaning away but multiplies it. Lois Tyson so aptly observes, “Change the lens and you change both the view and the viewer. This principal is what makes knowledge at once so frightening and so liberating, so painful and so utterly, utterly joyful” (9). So it is with Flannery O’Connor’s short story, “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” As O’Connor herself once noted, “there are perhaps other ways than my own in which [“A Good Man Is Hard to Find”] could be read, but none other by which it could have been written.” While the author wrote the story, guided by her own subjectivity and looking through her own lens, she acknowledges that her readers may, and some most definitely will, read it through a different lens. In this paper three tenets of deconstruction will be used to analyze “A Good Man is Hard to Find”: Derrida’s idea of impossible aporias or internal contradictions, undecidability and the way in which that erodes any sense of concrete binaries, namely good versus evil, and the concept of tout autre or responsibility to the other.

What is a good man? The question is first posed when the family makes a stop during their road trip to Florida at Red Sammy’s, an old dance hall/barbecue shack. Red Sammy bemoans the fact that you just can’t trust people anymore while wiping his forehead on a grey handkerchief. The color grey comes when you mix white and black. These are two binaries with underlying binaries, good and bad. Symbolically speaking the handkerchief represents the mixture of good and bad and how the two are becoming hard to differentiate between. According to deconstruction theory, there is no one good or bad. The binaries do not take their meaning from each other only, but from other traces left behind by other binaries, likened to a long chain and resulting in a chain reaction.

Red Sammy then proceeds to recount a story about two men who stopped to get gas. They seemed like good enough men to Red Sammy and so he let them charge the gas with the expectation that they would return and pay him. This is one example of undecidability in the form of decisions that can be found throughout the story. From a deconstructionist view, every decision is the equivalent of taking a leap of faith because there is no certainty to how the decision will unfold (IEP). For Red Sammy, he made the decision to let the men charge the gas with the faith that they would return to pay for it.

According to Derrida, the idea of hospitality is one such impossible aporia. “His point is relatively simple here; to be hospitable, it is first necessary that one must have the power to host. Hospitality hence makes claims to property ownership and it also partakes in the desire to establish a form of self-identity. Secondly, there is the further point that in order to be hospitable, the host must also have some kind of control over the people who are being hosted. This is because if the guests take over a house through force, then the host is no longer being hospitable towards them precisely because they are no longer in control of the situation” (IEP).

Initially, Red Sammy has the power to host because he is the owner of the gas station. While Red Sammy does have the power to let the men charge the gas, he lacks control over them which is determined when the men do not return to pay for the gas they charged. When the men do not return, Red Sammy’s act of hospitality no longer has a fixed meaning and can in fact be seen as something other than hospitality. “Often to show how those meanings cannot settle into a stable structure, we would seek out internal contradictions or internal differences that frustrate any interpretations of the text as holding a single, stable meaning” (Parker, 93).

They never returned and Red Sammy despairingly asks, “Now why did I do a thing like that?” The grandmother replies emphatically it is because Red Sammy is a good man. Red Sammy says that things are getting terrible and a good man is hard to find. The grandmother had just pronounced Red Sammy a good man because of the kindness or “hospitality” he showed the two men by letting them charge the gas. But Red Sammy is still pronouncing that a good man is hard to find. So what exactly is a good man?

It is interesting to note that the conversation between Red Sammy specifically and the idea of good and bad more generally is a reference to the biblical parable of the Good Samaritan. In the parable a Jewish man is beaten, stripped of clothing, and left in a ditch to die. A priest comes by but crosses the road to bypass him. Then a Levite passes by without helping. The Samaritan, who is the despised enemy of the Jews, comes by and takes him to an inn where he pays for the beaten Jew to be cared for (NIV, Luke 10:29-37). This act of mercy and grace by the perceived enemy is the contradiction that will resurface throughout the story.

The next passage where the idea of “good” is explored is when the family careens off the road into a gulch. The Misfit, who is an escaped and dangerous murderer, comes upon the stranded family with his gang in tow. Upon realizing that the man she is seeing is indeed the Misfit, the grandmother pronounces emphatically that he is a good man. One is left to wonder, if the “hospitality” and kindness Red Sammy showed the men was what determined him to be a good man in the opinion of the grandmother, how she could possibly see goodness in the violence and murder the Misfit takes part in. This but another contradiction. Kindness and evil cannot both denote goodness. Or can it?

The signifier “good” has somehow shifted in its meaning for the grandmother. As Jack Reynolds states, “the meaning of the term changes depending upon the particular context in which it is being employed” (IEP). One explanation of the grandmother’s aporia is explained by Lois Tyson, “Every signifier consists of and produces more signifiers in a never-ending deferral, or postponement, of meaning” (239). The grandmother is relying on other traces of signifiers denoting good such as ethnicity perhaps. In her desperation in the current situation, to rely on the meaning of the signifier “good” as relating strictly to the kindness displayed by Red Sammy would leave her no hope in her current situation that the Misfit might also be good. Therefore she seeks out other meanings of the signifier “good” which she can rely on to convince herself and the Misfit that he is a good man and as such would never shoot her.

In the final scene of the story, we see the grandmother’s tout autre, or responsibility to the other occur. Her entire family has been shot to death one by one and she is now left alone, facing the man responsible for their murders. As the Misfit kneels in front of the grandmother, his face close to hers, she gains a moment of clarity and says, “Why you’re one of my babies. You’re one of my own children.” She then makes a decision without knowing the results of that decision but for once, not even caring to calculate the results. For one moment in her life, the grandmother demonstrates what is so incredibly hard to do in this world. She reaches out to touch the Misfit and by doing that offers him unconditional forgiveness. Forgiveness, according to Derrida is one of those aporias because the notion of absolute forgiveness “…requires a radically singular confrontation between self and other” (IEP). The grandmother, who has acted irresponsibly throughout the story in regards to her manipulation, is finally accepting the responsibility. “For Derrida, the paradox of responsible behaviour means that there is always a question of being responsible before a singular other (eg. a loved one, God, etc.), and yet we are also always referred to our responsibility towards others generally and to what we share with them (IEP). The grandmother, in reaching out, has found the common bond between herself and the other (the Misfit) and in doing so has revealed that to him. In claiming their oneness in her last words and in reaching out in a moment of grace, the grandmother has become the Good Samaritan.

Regardless, the Misfit shoots the grandmother dead, and as he looks down on her he says, “She would of been a good woman…had it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.” And so the final aporia of the story is that perhaps goodness does spring from many different meanings and that it was only through evil that the grandmother was able to become a good woman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

 

Parker, Robert. How to Interpret Literature: Critical Theory for Literary and Cultural Studies. NewYork: Oxford, 2015. Print.

Tyson, Lois. Critical Theory Today: A User Friendly Guide. New York:   Routledge, 2015. Print

Reynolds, Jack. “Jacques Derrida (1930—2004).” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: A Peer-Reviewed Academic Resource, n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2016.

Flannery O’Connor, “On Her Own Work,” in her Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose, edited by Sally Fitzgerald and Robert Fitzgerald, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1969, pp. 107-18.

 

 

 

 

What do you do when you’ve given fifteen years of your life to a man, given up your personal ambitions to give him three children and be a stay-at-home mom, only to discover over the phone that he is indeed ready to divorce so that he can pursue his relationship with the cute blond pharmaceutical sales rep with the apartment in the city and a not so attractive Pug she so cleverly named Toto because she is originally from Kansas? Well, if you’re thirty-four-year-old Maggie Murphy, you silently scream (so as not to wake those three sleeping children) every curse word in the book and when you run out of curse words you invent new ones. You tear the kitchen apart, cleaning out the junk drawer, throwing away old receipts and lottery tickets from years past (ripping them to pieces first), scrubbing the refrigerator and throwing out all of the meat, his meat, because you’ve been a vegetarian for sixteen years. You remember how he said he was also a vegetarian for the first two years you were together, only to find out years later that he did not forgo meat because he was a vegetarian, rather he was too afraid to eat the grade D meat the Navy served. But behind your back he would go to seven-eleven and scarf down a chili dog or two.

You hear the words echoing in your head “…because people change.” And you cry. Tears and snot all intermingle in one disgusting mess and you wipe your face with your sleeve, the same sleeve you used earlier in the day to wipe away your two-year-old daughter’s snot because even though she is your third child you still, for some unfathomable reason, cannot remember to carry tissues. You sink to the floor and think of your husband and the cute pharmaceutical sales rep, who also happens to be a tri-athlete. Triathletes have extremely tight asses you discover, not like the ass of a stay-at-home mom of three, an ass that your children affectionately call the “jiggley”. They are now “in love” and are planning their future together, a future that includes your children, and you feel the rolls of your stomach folding over one another and you try to replace the feeling of self-loathing with the memory of carrying each one of your children. But you can’t so you grab the box of cheese-its on the counter and try the best you can to console yourself in your broken home.

That was Maggie Mae Murphy eight months, four days, and seven hours ago. Since that phone call her life had been flipped upside down. In the first couple of months she was sure he would come to his senses and accept her offer of counseling. Fifteen years and three children and there was not a chance of reconsideration. The “I’m just not sure we can fix it” turned into “It could never have been fixed.” This translated into “You and the family we had were just not worth enough to even try fixing it.” And this broke her heart. It also really pissed her off.

Three scars on her stomach from three cesareans and a mass of stretch marks on her breasts, ten years of devoting herself to the “family” (what the hell is the definition of family these days anyways and if she had to hear one more time that they still were a family just a different kind she would gouge out her eyes) while Aiden filled those years with his shenanigans at the Ratheskellar. He spent those years building his career and his sense of importance in managing multi-million dollar projects at NYU and New York Presbyterian, reveling in his role as father, a role that she supported, reveling in everything but her. She seethed. And she cried. And seethed and cried.

“There are just too many mistakes.” That was his answer when she asked him why he did not want to try to fix things.

“What mistakes? I want you to tell me what my mistakes were. What did I do?!” Her voice rising with each word until her sentence ended in a scream. Shrew!

“What makes you think they were your mistakes?” And so he wiped his hands on his pharmaceutical sales rep’s wallet and walked away.

So she painted each room. The living room she painted butterscotch, a red accent wall in the kitchen, and the paneling in the dining room pastel green, blue, and tan. The latter ended up looking like the Easter Bunny had vomited all over the walls but it was different than before and that was what she needed. She gladly welcomed the Easter Bunny vomit. She painted in anger at first, each roll erasing her memories of what was. These would be walls that Aiden had never seen and never would. These were her walls now. Hers and her children’s. But when she got to the entrance way to the kitchen and began painting over the smudges and dirty fingerprints of her children, her anger turned to something else. Grief. It was an intense sadness that could not be put into words. She realized then that it was not just memories of her relationship, her marriage, she was attempting to erase but her memories of her children. It was not just her marriage that was gone but her family. She could not let go of him without letting go of part of her children. That pushed her over.

She packed away all of the photo albums of their life together. The early years in Virginia and Grand Rapids, and the past eleven years they spent building a life in New Jersey. Their trip to Martha’s Vineyard before children and their vacation to Saint Marten after children. She packed away photos, photos of him, photos of her children, photos of her family. The old family. She packed them all away in a five dollar tub purchased at Wal-Mart, color blue. She packed them away with the love letters they had exchanged the first two years of their love affair. The Navy years. Those letters had gotten her through the bad times in her marriage, the times she had wanted to give in and give up. Fifteen years all packed away in one five gallon tub purchased at Wal-Mart, color blue.

But in the end it did not matter that the walls were painted, the furniture replaced and rearranged, photos, journals and mementos packed away. The pain, the anger, the bitterness, and the confusion were still there. The what-ifs, should haves, and whys were still there. They were haunting the halls of her mind like ghosts. Their echoes were inside of her, the chains rattling in her heart, and they would always be there. That was when she came to the conclusion, which seemed rather logical at the time, that the only solution to the problem would be to kill him. She would kill him and with him all of the rage and bitterness.