This essay will focus on the influence family background and childhood memories have on writers and the theme of their writings. In both the essays chosen for detailed study here, we see how the authors’ philosophy of life and things that they chose to explore and write about was set way back in their childhood as a result of the traumas they faced. This paper will present an analysis of how the families of Sanders and Maduro shaped the way these authors understand themselves and relate to others.
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Scott Russell Sanders was the winner of the Mark Twain Award in 2009 and his work A Private History of Awe was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Born in Memphis, Tennessee, to a family of cotton farmers, Sanders had a long and distinguished career as Professor of English at Indiana University. The main vision behind his writing is the shift in cultures from a consumerist to a care-giving society (Sanders). In his essay, “Under the Influence: Paying the Price for my Father’s Booze”, Sanders had chronicled the trauma he and his siblings had to endure because of his father’s alcoholism.
In this memoir Sander’s recounts the feelings of guilt, shame and helpless that he felt as a child of ten when he saw his father’s unstable and ferocious outbursts after getting drunk. He blamed himself for it and that feeling of guilt hounded him throughout his life. “I tell myself he drinks to ease [â€¦] an ache I must have caused by disappointing him somehow” (Sanders). To atone for his perceived inadequacies as a child Sanders tried to turn to working hard and trying to keep the family together and taking on his father’s responsibilities, “by vainly seeking to erase through my efforts whatever drove him to drink” (Sanders).
Sanders observes that his own children wonder at what drives him to be a “workaholic” and tries to allay their fears and any sense of guilt or pressure they may feel by being candid about his own feelings of guilt, hurt and shame at his father’s alcoholism. On maturity he realized that he had castigated himself needlessly as a child and that his father’s alcoholism was a disease and he had no reason to feel responsible for it. However, his fear of drinks and bad conduct that he had witnessed as a child had left a deep scar in his soul. He is reticent about going to pubs with his friends and drinking as much as he is afraid of causing hurt or disappointment to anybody. He is constantly watchful of any adverse reactions from people around him and still carries the shame of his father’s “sins” deep down inside him and shies away from having that facet of his life exposed in public.
The name E.S. Maduro is a pseudonym under which the author talks about her feminist beliefs and her convictions on freedom of choice and awareness for women. She records how her own youthful feelings of rebellion against the social norms of marriage and raising children altered upon maturity but how she clung to her belief that women should have the awareness to make decisions for themselves. They should be allowed to choose their career paths according to their wishes and not be forced into stereotypical roles due to societal pressures. In the essay “Excuse Me While I Explode: My Mother, Myself, My Anger” the writer describes her feelings of anger, guilt and frustrations when she narrates the story of how her mother and women of that generation had to sacrifice their careers and all their life’s desires to accommodate their families and their duties as home makers and mothers.
“Excuse Me While I Explode: My Mother, Myself, My Anger” first appeared in print as an article in a book entitled The Bitch in the House. In this article Maduro has written about her frustration at the inequality women face in society. It primarily deals with her angst at how she being a post-modern woman who was educated and liberated fell back and did the same things that she has found so loathsome in her mother. She had felt defiant at the way her mother and most women had to give-up their own dreams of a good and successful life to slave at household chores and raising children. “Years ago” a woman did not have a choice to voice her opinions and the role of housekeeper and dutiful mother was thrust upon her without so much as a thought about how she felt about it. Her toil was taken for granted and the spouse did not even think it inappropriate to allow his wife to do all the housework when he could very easily have offered to help.
“I believed myself to be a feminist, and I vowed never to fall into the same trap of domestic boredom and servitude that I saw my mother as being fully entrenched in; never to settle for a life that was, as I saw it, lacking independence, authority, and respect” (Maduro 5).
However, as she grew older and had her own experience of loving and living with her partner she was amazed that she followed the same pattern almost unconsciously and managed both house and work despite her partner wanting to help her with the chores. She puzzles over why this is so because she believed herself to be aware of her rights unlike her mother and in full command over her vocation and what she wanted out of life, yet she slaved at household chores:
“I feel an odd mixture of frustration and love. Together we have a wonderful, open, trusting relationship, but sometimes I wonder if the hostility already in me, and my need to be angry at someone or something, could eventually destroy our bond” (Maduro 12).
The article is an introspection of why she chose to do this. She comes up with the hypothesis that women chose to take on domestic responsibilities even if it meant forgoing some of their own desires because it made a woman proud to be an accomplished home maker and mother. She identified this need in a woman to excel in housekeeping as a source of pleasure and fulfillment. She reflects on the dichotomy between love and frustration, career and home, raising children and vocation and finally finds comfort in the fact that unlike her mother she was not forced into servitude. She did what she did because she wanted to do it, she had the option of turning away and that made a big difference. She is able to resolve her conflict and also that of many other women by reiterating that choosing to be a good housekeeper and mother was an option and you could choose to be one even if you felt strongly for the cause of feminism.
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