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?My Hope Is Constant In Thee? (352-353)
What gives a mother greater hopes than her offspring? To see in her child the hopes and dreams of the future while her own begin to fade with her age. Prin Logan, christened Princess, lost her only child but adopted the orphan Morag Gunn, who, as a grown woman, gave birth to Pique. In this essay I will focus on the relationship between Morag and Prin and the effects it had on the former throughout her life ? especially when it comes to her relationship with her daughter, Pique.
The first time Morag meets Prin, there is no identification. She is immediately turned down by Prin?s appearance: ?She is so fat ? can she be a person??(24). Instead of seeing in Prin a comforter, a supplement mother, a grown up person, she sees a large woman, with whom she has difficulties connecting. She seems to be in a state of shock for some time because the first year with Prin and Christie, her ?memories do not exist at all.? (25)
The first sign of Morag?s affection for Prin is also her first sign of guilt for loathing her large stepmother. She hates going to the store to get doughnuts for Prin because of the bad talk she hears there. Prin, who has then already begun to slip into a world of her own, apologizes for not taking better care of Morag and confesses to having lost a child herself. Morag is shocked and for the first time discovers a similarity between herself and Prin, which is the desire in every woman to have a child. Morag realizes she has not exactly been the model daughter and she is also sorry: ?Prin?s good good good.?(36)
In the coming years Prin gets more distant and Morag gets more ashamed of her with every pound she puts on. The church is the only place where they go together. When Morag is still in Sunday class, an old paper picture hangs on the wall, a picture named ?The Mothers of Salem Bringing Their Children to Jesus? (63). Despite her grotesque appearance, Prin never fails to bring her child to Jesus. Morag tries to cope with her disgust for Prin but is increasingly embarrassed by her: ?Morag stands behind Prin, the back row of the church, hating her own embarrassment but hugging it around her.?(88) This battle of mixed feelings for the only mother she has really known ends with the triumph of the importance of public opinion or, even more importantly, her own disgust. Morag decides to stop going to church with Prin: ?She loves Prin, but can no longer bear to be seen with her in public.?(89) It is interesting to notice that there is no place in the novel where Morag is actually teased directly because of Prin?s excessive weight. If something, she is given a harder time because of Christie rather than Prin, at least as far as we know. The loathing she has for Prin seems to come from within herself rather than the environment.
Morag is happy when she starts working at Simlow?s Ladies? Wear. It is there she discovers her femininity and establishes an identity outside her home. Millie, a co-worker, teaches her that: ?good taste is learnt.? (91) This gives Morag the hope that she can learn to have good taste despite her upbringing. Very rapidly Morag disentangles herself from everything that reminds her of what she doesn?t want to become like, Prin and Eva Winkler. The latter visits her in the store but Morag shakes her off: ?Sorry, but wanting Eva to go. Right this minute. Not to be seen talking to her.? (92) Morag wants to be fancy but doesn?t belong in the upper class society either so she seems caught somewhere in between.
As Morag withdraws from Prin, Prin withdraws from the world: ?Prin hardly ever talks anymore.? (108) When Morag finally leaves Manawaka to attend college, only a small part of Prin seems to be left in the real world. She is: ?Like a tub with eyes.? (140) A thing, an object ? not a person. Prin has removed herself from the outside world.
Free at last from what people in Manawaka might think of her, Morag is happy at the university. There she meets Ella and later Ella?s mother, Mrs. Gerson. She is the opposite of Prin: ?a tall strapping woman whose voice is brisk and bossy but also loving.? (147-148) It is obvious that the relationship between Mrs. Gerson and her daughters is one of love and mutual respect. Mrs. Gerson is not a woman who has let the world get the best of her: ?She does not complain about the large amount of work she has to do.? (148) It seems that Morag has found a mother-image she can relate to, someone who is strong and independent. But then again, Mrs. Gerson has not lost a child.
Morag meets Brooke Shelton, a teacher who takes an interest in her and so asks about her upbringing. Morag then follows in the footsteps of Peter the Apostle, who denied Jesus three time. Brooke asks her where she comes from and she answers: ?Oh-nowhere really.? (156) Then he asks of her family and again she denies her home by saying: ?I don?t have any family, actually. I was brought up by – by no one.? (156) Finally she claims that the people who brought her up were ?some friends? (156) but finished by adding: ?They?re no relation to me. My parents died when I was very young.? (156) Morag has denied three times the town she grew up in and the only family she has known and all before the rooster crows.
When Morag eventually goes home to see Prin and Christie to tell them about her approaching marriage to Brooke, she finds Prin in bad shape. She seems to have reverted back to girlhood. ?Prin smiles again [at Morag], trustingly, like a young girl about to be married.? (167) In reality it is Morag who is about to be married but Prin?s hopes and dreams reflect in Morag?s life. Slowly Morag is maturing and understanding Prin more. She feels guilty that Eva comes regularly and washes Prin ? a job that should have been Morag?s. ?Prin gave them [Eva and Vern] the occasional jelly doughnut. She gave Morag her only home.? (206)
When Morag finds out that Prin is dying she is hesitant: ?I don?t want to go. That?s the awful thing. But I must.? (202) She still feels the loathing but now she also feels obliged to some responsibility as a daughter. Morag admits that she has turned her back on both Christie and Prin but feels that she had to make ?her getaway? (202). She goes home to meet Prin on her dying bed but before she can see her she cries in a fit of remorse: ?Oh Christie ? I?ve enough to answer for. Let?s just let her [Prin] come home.? (204) But the remorse only lasts until she sees Prin and then ?feels only relief? (204) that she doesn?t have to take care of her. Heavily mixed with this relief is her realization that she loathes Prin just as much as she loves her, or even more. This makes her terrified: ?Help me, God; I?m frightened of myself.? (207)
When Prin dies, it seems to be a relief on everyone. ?She has been in her sleep for years now? anyway but ?now at least there will be darkness.? (204) A very harsh burden is lifted off Morag. At the funeral, Mr. Cameron claims not to have known Prin much and Morag replies: ?Most didn?t. It?s ? it can?t be helped.? (208) Morag is coming to terms with the fact that Prin has not been easy to love and things couldn?t have worked out any other way. Also that Prin would have been proud of her, hoping and wanting only the best for Morag. In a way, she honours Prin best by being an independent and strong woman who doesn?t let life beat her down. It is at Prin?s funeral that Morag decides to leave Brooke because she is finally ready to stand on her own and mother a child.
In the beginning of the novel we meet Morag as a matured woman. She has decided to have and raise a child on her own but is obviously having difficulties dealing with that child, Pique. She is actually facing a common problem for mothers. Morag wants to shape Pique into an independent woman but is also afraid of pushing her into the cold world unaided. She realizes though that: ?She?s [Pique] got to be on her own.? (80) She has got to learn to take responsibility for her actions and her life.
Gradually we learn that Pique landed in a mental hospital following drug abuse before the present time given in the novel. In the hospital she lashed out at her mother rather than seek shelter with her and claimed: ?Can?t you see I despise you?? (81) Then she followed her mother?s footsteps by denying her origin: ?You aren?t my mother. I haven?t got a mother.? (81)
In a way it seems that Morag had Pique to make up for lack of attachment and identification in her own childhood. When Pique pushes her mother away, Morag disentangles herself emotionally from Pique: ?Morag didn?t want to put the hooks onto Pique, nor to have Pique at this point put the hooks onto her.? (192) She is coming to terms with that Pique is exactly what she wanted her to be ? an independent woman. When Morag tried to hold onto her, Pique ran away and got into trouble. At least Prin knew when to let go.
When Prin is gone forever, Morag is sorry that she didn?t try to connect with her. Just as Prin built a shield around herself from the outside world with her fat, Morag put a shield around her heart. In a conversation Morag admits to Pique that she wanted: ?respectability, wall-to-wall carpets and all that.? (192) Later she realizes that that is not what she wants at all but then it is too late ? ?It?s always too late for something.? (367) Pique despises this kind of thinking and again there is this notion that Morag has to let her go. Morag finally sees that and wonders: ?Am I only interpreting her [Pique] through my own experience?? (194) Morag knows that she was glad when Prin died because then she didn?t have to face the fact that people are not perfect so they are not always easy to love. Pique is certainly not perfect and Morag can?t keep her in a cage and have her just the way she herself wants. The feeling is that by the end of the book, Morag is coming to terms with her own past, her present and her future, which is full of hope for Pique.
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