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STORY 4 - 'MOTHER'
The setting is the town of Winesburg. The disorderly old hotel, owned by Tom Willard has been described and used as the setting for the action.
Elizabeth Willard - The mother of George is a listless and unhappy woman, whose only passion and possession is her son.
George Willard - The son, has been shown as a young lad, in his story still living with his parents, in the hotel, he goes out in the world to become a writer.
Tom Willard - He is George’s father, a graceful man who has a military step, he is forever angry with his wife, and the hotel he is supposed to take care of.
Protagonist - Elizabeth Willard is the protagonist here since her obsessive love towards her son has been primarily discussed.
Antagonist - To Elizabeth, her husband is the antagonist, as he shows signs of taking her son away from her.
Climax - The climax in the story is reached when the mother overhears her son talking to his father, and is filled with anger at his duplicity and betrayal of love towards the mother.
Outcome - This feeling brings about a demonic behavior in the mother, who imagines herself slaying her husband for having snatched her son away from her.
The theme in the story is the obsessive, manic love of mother for her son, which can drive itself to murder, if need be.
The hotels disorderly unkempt look brings a feeling of desolation in the reader but the mother's intense possessive nature is alarming and with the shift in the scene the mood too changes to a diabolic state of mind.
Elizabeth Willard is George Willard's mother and wife of Tom Willard. She manages their disorderly hotel with disinterest and slovenliness. Her husband, who is a brisk militant-looking man, tries as best as possible to put his wife and the hotel out of his mind. His passion is village politics and he dreams of becoming the governor.
Elizabeth shares an unexpressed bond of sympathy with her son. Though their communion, outwardly, is just a formal thing, deep within; she is fiercely possessive of him.
One evening while Elizabeth is ill in bed, though her son does not come to visit her alarmed and anxious as she expects him to, she goes over to his room to check on him and overhears him talking to her husband. Her husband, in his wish to see his son succeed in life, secures a position, for him on the 'Winesburg Eagle' the local newspaper.
The realization that her husband and her son have a congenial relationship maddens her and pushes her to a decision of killing her husband.
She then plans out her act. Her stage background goads her to dress herself up for her final act. She imagines herself all beautiful and stately stealing noiselessly with a pair of scissors in her hand.
Just then George comes up to her room and begins talking to her from his words she realizes that there is no great bonding between father and son. The joy in her heart is inexpressible. But very mundanely, she merely tells him to go out and take a walk to freshen himself.
This deeply psychological story reveals the semi-fanatic obsession of mother for her only son, an obsession that would even take recovers to murder.
Elizabeth Willard's life is one of drudgery and stagnation. Against this is her husband's forceful, go- getting personality, which jars with the slovenliness of his wife. The wife is thus delegated to the far recesses of her husband's life. The picture of Elizabeth is all the more pathetic, considering and comparing it to her girlhood flamboyance and rebellious nature. Her need to express herself and her desire to fulfill her restlessness leads her to an unwanted marriage with Tom Willard.
Elizabeth's obsession of the stage serves her in her bid to get rid of her husband. She is unable to visualize her son having a close relationship with anyone else, and especially not with her husband whom she hates. This rage pushes her to consider murdering her husband. Her desire to actually commit the crime, but in a theatrical get-up, shows the extent of her mad obsession over her son. Her imagination is vivid and fearsome - "As a tigress whose cub had been threatened, would she appear, coming out of the shadows, stealing noiselessly."
However, one sentence from her son, about no one understanding him, "I can't even talk to father about it" subdues all her passions and she is once again confident of his love for her.
The myth of a happy loving family is attacked in this story. The outward lack of communication between parent and son in clothed with deep-rooted desires and psychological fears of being unloved. The extent, to which the mother would go to keep her son to herself, is hair-raising and stupefying. Such behavior of the mother, along with the placid talk and outward demeanor goes to make the relationship an insane obsession.
Elizabeth Willard - Elizabeth has only one son, George, with whom she is obsessively attached. Her marriage to Tom Willard has given no contentment, and she has grown into a cantankerous old woman.
Elizabeth's love for George is of an obsessive nature. She cannot bear the thought of sharing him even with her own husband, who is after all, George's own father. Overhearing George talking to his father fills her with such rage that she even considers murdering her husband to get rid of him and thus keeping George only for himself. Her craziness even pushes on to imagining herself dressed to the gilt while murdering her husband. These theatrics merely convey her manic obsession for her son. It is really a relief for her to hear George conveying that he had not got much advice from his father. The mother has got her son back, and needn't worry about him leaving her for anyone else.
PLOT STRUCTURE ANALYSIS
The novel begins with an exposition of the mother's intense love for her son, which turns almost violent as the plot develops. The climax is reached when she overhears her son opening his heart out to his father. Her feelings then reach a level of mania. The story ends almost anti-climatically when she finds her son speaking her problems finally to her.
In this story, the mother's diabolic thoughts, as she imagines herself killing her husband, is the, main scene. This scene has been detailed out explicitly, and the overrun imagination has been elaborated upon. The final scene is a little anti-climatic yet it relieves the reader's mind.
THEMES - THEME ANALYSIS
The theme of possessiveness and especially a mother's over possessiveness has been beautifully described. The son is no integral part of the mother's life, that she is not even willing to share him with her own husband who is the boy's own father. Such possessiveness and obsession can tilt the mind towards any foolhardy behavior. This lonely woman's rage is so strong, that it pushes her to attempt murder on her husband.
For the son however, both parents are of equal importance, which is why he had asked for his father's advice too. The mother is consoled only when she hears that her husband has been of no help to her son. Her rule over her son has not been snatched away.
Explain the diabolical behavior of the mother.