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Failure Essay, Research Paper


In the United States, print and electronic media advertisements are full of images of the perfect family: usually proud parents with a happy and healthy child. New parents expect the fulfillment of a high-quality relationship with their newborn. So what happens when this fixation of happiness goes awry? How do the parents cope with failure when their child is born with some sort of imperfection? Wednesday s Child by Joyce Carol Oates shows how one family succumbs to deceit and immorality due to the chronic disability of their only child.

At first glance, it seems as if the family couldn t be any happier. The father has become successful at a young age. The mother is attractive and has anything she could ever want. Their beautiful daughter Brenda, at the tender age of six, has two loving parents who adore her. All of Arthur s friends are trying to match what he has achieved by attaining more and more worldly possessions that in the end are meaningless. This seemingly perfect family however, is on the verge of destruction. The parent s hopelessness leads to thoughts of divorce and wanting to abandon their only child. Brenda s parents feel this way because they have let their daughter s disability get the best of them and destroy their lives.

All Arthur ever dreamed of was a successful career and a nice home. All he ever wanted was to be married to an attractive woman that loved him for who he was, therefore creating a lasting marriage. Everything that he wanted, he had, except for a healthy daughter. His daughter was born with autism, a disease that sucked the emotional life out of her. The reality of autism, hard to imagine until it happens to someone close, made Brenda seem distant and lifeless.

Arthur s daughter never once showed any affection towards him. Arthur tried and tried to break through Brenda s invisible shield. He tried so hard and so many times that by the time

Brenda was six, his strained and nervous way of talking was the only way he communicated with her. Arthur knew his daughter could hear him, he just didn t understand why she wouldn t acknowledge him. The father understood the traits of autism, he just forced himself to think that maybe one day she would snap out of it. Arthur unrealistically believed that Brenda would be miraculously cured at some sudden point in time. This eternal wishful belief caused his marriage to deteriorate because of his inability to accept his daughter s disability.

Furthermore, the strain that has been placed on this marriage turned his wife into an exhausted obedient slave. She knew Arthur liked to have everything neat and clean and in proper order. Arthur s wife was aware of his keen desire for perfect scheduling and planning. When the parents found out about their daughter s autism, Arthur s wife knew it was going to be a long, tough road ahead.

As a statement of her devotion and loyalty to the marriage, Arthur s wife tried her hardest to make it work. Part of this effort included holding her tongue when Arthur talked about his day at work. Much of Arthur s babbling included things that were going wrong at work, and she realized that this was to prevent her from talking about Brenda or about her own problems. Arthur s wife kept busy by constantly vacuuming up the broken spaghetti strands that Brenda dropped while chewing on them. Begrudgingly, she graced Arthur with her presence at all of his superficial dinner parties. The wife s constant effort caused her to become so emotionally and physically exhausted that she would daydream about what it would be like to spend time with another man. These lustful and imaginative thoughts filled her mind instantly at the slightest brush of her arm by another man.

The wife s mind is not the only set of brains that these thoughts of infidelity are confined

to though. Many times Arthur thought about having an intimate relationship with his secretary. He compared the gentle, seductive, and attractive lines of a building to the face of his secretary he could almost have loved. Arthur knew an affair would be relatively easy to get away with, but one reason he didn t act on his desire was that deep inside he knew that if his wife did find out, she might be happy to have a reason to seek a divorce. This unhealthy attitude and constantly wandering mind shows mental and physical weakness brought on by knowledge that Brenda will never be normal.

Many different factors add to the negative condition of this marriage, one being the husband s perversion. Arthur s grotesque thoughts are also why his relationship with Brenda is truthfully not a relationship at all. At the beginning of the story Arthur mentioned that he loved her knees. In the opinion of most people, this kind of remark would be considered out of place. Many would even call it perverted. Arthur s physical perception of Brenda is much different than the majority of other American fathers who have daughters. Since Brenda s father can t interact with her in any other way, Arthur talks himself into thinking that inappropriate behavior is acceptable. Arthur s perversion made itself evident again towards the end of the story when he saw a middle-aged man in an overcoat appear out of nowhere running towards Brenda. The stranger collided with Brenda and stood over her screaming into her face and shaking her. The reader is left to imagine whether or not this confrontation was real. This mishap was most likely a figment of Arthur s imagination showing disgust with himself at the way he treats Brenda. Additionally, this event allows the reader to ponder what the meaning of a man in an overcoat might be. The stereotype associated with this type of clothing, which is usually an act of streaking, creates interest of the reader to figure out if Arthur is unrighteous or not.

For this self-pity and utter disregard for their daughter, both parents should have felt embarrassed and ashamed about their actions considering the circumstances. Brenda s parents

are depressed and shameful because their daughter has not developed like they had hoped. The couple s hope of improvement in Brenda is based on them taking her to a special school located an hour from home. Upon arriving at Brenda s special school, her parents drop her off and let

someone else do the work for them. Brenda s parents discontinue their attempts to improve their daughter s state of mind after only a few years of minimal effort. Ultimately, they give up on Brenda as a daughter. Her parents treat her the same way many people treat household pets. Maybe if Brenda s parents had stopped being so selfish, they would have realized the reason she isn t developing is because they aren t doing anything to help her. The parents have stopped trying to make their marriage a success and allowed themselves to fall into the trap of asking the question, what if? Their immoral behavior and deceitful actions will haunt them for the rest of their meaningless days and be an example to other parents in similar situations.

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