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?Regret? By Kate Chopin Vs. ?My Oedipus Complex? By Frank O?Connor Essay, Research Paper
Everyone has a family or at least knows a family, so everyone can relate to a story about family. ?Regret, by Kate Chopin, and ?My Oedipus Complex,? by Frank O?Connor, are two very different stories about the same thing ? family. ?Regret,? a tale about an older woman, who, never having married or had children, gets her first experience with them by taking care of her neighbor?s children for a short while, and ?My Oedipus Complex,? a short story about a young boy who decides he is better suited to the affections of his mother than is his father, are two very different approaches to show the need for a complete family.
The similarities between the two stories are easily appreciated. First, as I stated earlier, both of the stories are about families, and how the lack of, what most people consider, a ?normal? and ?complete? family causes problems. In ?Regret,? Mamzelle Aur?lie completely lacks a family; she has never married, has never had children, and has only had one marriage proposal, which was promptly rejected. Mamzelle Aur?lie is not even properly a woman without a family; she much more resembles a man with her determination, man?s hat, army overcoat, and boots. Additionally, owning a farm, managing and employing people, and knowing how to use a gun are all traditionally men?s occupations (at least in the 1800?s). Certainly, she knows nothing about children and how to raise them, and that is the problem, at least on the surface. When presented with her neighbor?s children, Mamzelle Aur?lie doesn?t know how to care for them.
In ?My Oedipus Complex?, we see another incomplete family. The father is away at war, and the mother and son, Larry, are alone for long periods. Thus, the son becomes overly attached to the mother, and sees himself as her spouse. Certainly, the son becomes jealous of the father when he returns, and tries to make him leave so he again can be alone with his mother. However, the Oedipus complex, which is a positive libidinal feeling that a child subconsciously develops toward the parent of the opposite sex (Webster, 585), in the story is not fully realized; though the son wishes to be alone with his mother, he does not desire her. Larry doesn?t have a clue about how babies are made, since he gives serious thought to his mother?s excuse that they ?couldn?t afford one till Father came back from the war because they cost seventeen and six? (465). The problem in ?My Oedipus Complex? is that due to the Father?s absence the family is incomplete and the resultly produces an unnatural relationship, that between Larry and his mother.
There are other similarities between the two stories. One is what happens when children are introduced into the family, i.e. the neighbor?s children are introduced into Mamzelle Aurelie?s ?family? and the new baby is introduced into Larry?s family. The introduction of children makes the shortcomings of either lacking a family, or having an incomplete family, obvious, but it also makes a complete family. In ?Regret?, Mamzelle Aur?lie comes close to having a complete family when she is given her neighbor?s children to watch. Mamzelle Aur?lie soon learns she lacks the experience to properly care for the children because ?they require and demand attentions which were wholly unexpected by Mamzelle Aurelie, and which she was ill prepared to give.? (462) However, she soon learns to care for them, and even to enjoy them. Mamzelle Aur?lie never knew the lack of children until she had children, and she never knew what it was to care for them until she had to do that. Similarly, in ?My Oedipus Complex? the family becomes complete (again) when the father returns from war. Additionally, just to make sure the family is whole, a baby soon follows, and with another child, both the father and Larry take their proper roles in the family. They are no longer rivals, and Sonny?s arrival has destroyed the Oedipus relationship (such as it was). They both have to compete with Sonny for his mother?s attention. Doing so makes Larry the father?s son again. Larry stops playing with his father?s toys (the German military souvenirs), and plays with toys his father gives him, which are appropriate for a young boy, like the train set he gets at the very end of the story.
?Regret? differs from ?My Oedipus Complex? in the tone of its ending. ?Regret? ends with Mamzelle Aur?lie losing her ?children,? and going back to being alone. But being alone now is unbearable because she now knows what it means to not have children. In fact, Mamzelle Aur?lie goes back to being a man and ?she cried like a man, with sobs that seemed to tear her very soul.? ?My Oedipus Complex? ends on a happy note, as the family in the story becomes complete (all members present), everybody seems to fall into their proper role and all are happy. Still, despite the difference in tone between the two endings, the message is still the same; a complete family is most fulfilling to the majority of people.
Both ?Regret? and ?My Oedipus Complex? offer the same opinion, which is having a complete family is the ultimate, best goal of every man and woman. Not having a family, or having an incomplete one, is not a fulfilling alternative. You may very well disagree with the stories? message, but the message is very clear.
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