Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Difficult Transition

Gloria Sawai’s “Mother’s Day” is written from the point of view of a thirteen year old girl reflecting on the events of a few days around Mother’s Day two years prior. The few days on which she reflects seem to define the transition from adolescence to adulthood. The narrator seems to be well on her way to becoming an adult at the beginning of the story; however, there are many contradictory moments in the story that show how unready for womanhood she really is. I believe this is from where the story draws its power.

When the narrator falls ill, she first turns to her mother. The need for one’s mother seems to be one of the defining characteristics of a child, a characteristic that is also displayed by the kitten, making the narrator, in a way, its mother. The importance of motherhood seems apparent to the narrator, which could explain her apprehension towards growing into an adult and becoming a mother herself, which is shown in both the scene in which her parents put the mustard plaster on her chest as well as the scene in which she kills the kitten.

It is only after Mrs. McDonald tells her how good of a mother she will be that she hurls the kitten into the snow and smashes it with rocks. She seems to kill the kitten because she isn’t ready for motherhood, for the responsibility. She seems to be lashing out against the construct of motherhood. The image of the little girl killing the kitten was very emotive and was very hard to ignore. Such a horrible image contrasts with the little girl’s scripture quotes and confidence in her preparedness for adulthood, the two images together help us see how confusing this transition would be. Two years after these happenings, when the story is written, the narrator understands why she was so embarrassed about her growing body in the instance of the mustard plaster but still did not understand why she killed the kitten. It makes the reader aware that, although she is more mature than when these events occurred, she is still not yet a woman when she writes about that Mother’s Day.

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