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Passion and Life
Commonly people view a marriage as a strong bond between two people that consists of good communication and love that is both given and received. However, in Paul Hond’s The Baker the marriage between Mickey and Emi seems to lack both of these elements. Both Emi and Mickey isolate themselves from the relationship, and though it is not intentional on either of their parts, it damages the marriage. After Emi’s death, even though the relationship does not exist in a physical sense, the relationship mends itself in Mickey’s mind, both psychologically and emotionally. The entire Lerner Family lacks good solid relationships, and communication is fairly limited until after the death of Emi. Ben is always in his room, Emi is practicing in the basement or out of town, and Mickey is lost in thought in the bakery or at home. No one seems to be able to communicate with each other until Emi has died. Ben and Mickey are then able to bond as father and son.
Emi is so involved in her music that she shuts everything else out of her life, including her husband and son. Her isolation is so extreme that she goes so far as to ask them to leave, “Emi picked up her violin, began turning pages. ‘I think,’ she said, ‘that you’d better go.’” (p. 35). Rather than confronting the issue and having good communication with Mickey, she shuts herself off from her family. Emi cherishes their relationship, but cannot seem to tell Mickey how she truly feels. At times Emi feels guilty about her lack of a solid relationship with her son and even her husband. However, her passion for music has dominated over her entire life and the guilt is overshadowed.
Emi’s relationship with Ben is much like her relationship with Mickey. However, she continually feels guilty that she has not been around to help Ben grow up. All of the parenting was done by Mickey so that Emi could focus solely on her music. Mickey sees this lack of motherly love and resents Emi for not being there more. Mickey says, “‘Go ahead, he’s waiting. Been waiting all his life.’” (p. 35) He evens becomes jealous that Emi might give Ben attention after she has ignored him for so long. The tension between the couple becomes enormous, and eventually Mickey leaves Emi in her isolation.
Mickey continually tries to get Emi to open up to him, but always fails. He can see that something is troubling her, because of his insecurities he assumes that she is unsatisfied with their marriage and is having an affair with David Shaw. With the burdens of a failed marriage on his mind, Mickey escapes into the atmosphere of the bakery becoming enchanted at times, “Mickey sat at the desk of his enclosed office and stared through the glass window at the large kitchen of his bakery, trying to take his mind off the alarming prospect of David Shaw’s party.” (p. 89). His daydreaming causes him to lose touch with reality and his surroundings. He jumps to conclusions easily because he is so insecure and worried that he has failed with his marriage with Emi.
Mickey neglects Ben in many ways, but it is not intentional. The bakery is on Mickey’s mind, along with his worries of his wife’s infidelities, so he loses touch with reality. Often times Mickey shows more interest in being a father to Nelson then he does to his own son. One night Mickey offers Nelson a boxing lesson,
“Mickey sighed, smiled, tried to think of something to do. ‘Hey! Watch your guard!’ He feigned a punch to Nelson’s head.
Nelson reacted quickly, ducking. His face lit up like a child’s. ‘Almost got me that time,’ he said.
‘Remember what I showed you,’ said Mickey. He demonstrated. ‘Hands up. Lead with the left.’ He felt a strain in his rib cage. ‘See that?’
Nelson mirrored him, smiling shyly. ‘A’ight then. Next time, I’ll be ready.’
Mickey was aware of Ben on the perimeter of their make believe ring, watching them.” (p. 96).
Ben was greatly hurt by this lack of attention, and feels very insecure and weak in the eyes of his father. Frequently Ben acts as if he must prove himself to his father, and show his father that he is capable of handling the bakery alone.
Before Emi’s death the marriage is very troubled, but after she is murdered Mickey is able to get in touch with himself and the emotional and psychological relationships between him and his deceased wife. Although Emi no longer exists in a physical sense, she has a significant impact on Mickey in a spiritual sense. He is then encouraged to travel to Paris in her honor by his life long family friends, which leads him to a great epiphany. Once in Paris he learns of Emi’s breast cancer and realizes that she was not having an affair with David Shaw. By going to Paris to find Emi, Mickey is able to see himself for what he truly is as a person. He discovers himself by working in the bakery in Paris. Mickey learns that he is an artist, and that his means of expression is through making bread by hand. Emi’s spirit and her passion for music live on in Mickey with his newly found passion for baking bread. His life is no longer boring and routine because now he has a means of expression and a newly gained sense of confidence in himself.
Once Mickey found himself in Paris, and was able to get in touch with his thoughts and feelings, and even express himself through bread, he was able to communicate well with his son. It was not until Mickey returned from Paris and saw what Ben had done with the bakery that he was able to see Ben for what he truly is as a person. Mickey realized that Ben was his son, and that they had a relationship to work on now that Emi was gone. Emi had acted as the glue in the family for quite some time. With her gone, they now had to learn to communicate with one another. Mickey and Ben were able to talk and understand each other as father and son, and also as bakers. They found their common bonds, and grew much closer.
The marriage between Emi and Mickey is much stronger after Emi’s death, and more influential on Mickey’s life at the time. While Emi is alive Mickey is constricted and trapped in isolation from Emi and her violin. Once Emi is murdered Mickey gains a newfound freedom where he can experience life for himself. Their marriage, while Emi is alive, lacks good communication and a solid relationship. They are married, but so distant and even cold. Although Emi’s death is untimely and tragic, it is for the benefit of Mickey and his future relationships with people, especially his son Ben. Even though Ben and Mickey will never be able to communicate with Emi in the physical sense, they both were able to learn about her and see that a passion for something in life is healthy. They saw that having a passion in life, such as music or baking, made them better communicators with one another, and that they were more able to express themselves.
Hond, Paul “The Baker”
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