• Claire's main ideas about extract 5

    Here is the very keen and excellent study of extract 5 by Claire! Thanks Claire for sharing it with us!



    Extract n°5

    Problematic :

    How does the birth of Ben show us the hidden part of Harriet's personality ?

    Main ideas :

    1. Ben = a poisoned gift :


    Punishment of Harriet and David for their hubristic behavior (they are guilty of hubris so deserve a punishment= Ben). Accidental pregnancy + birth of Ben means : no more way to espace to their destiny, their fall, it's too late. Punishment = something negative, nobody wants to be punished. Several kinds of punhishment : physical or psychological punishment or both. Harriet and David : both.


    - physical punishment : Ben = like a poison in Harriet's womb = hurts her, kicks her. Battle between the baby and her ; baby seems to win : hurts her so strongly she must go to the hospital for the first time + first time she is suffering so much (« strong wrenching pains, worse, she knew, than ever in the past » (10-11)).

    - psychological punishment : Harriet knows it would be difficult to manage with this baby : he foreshadows problems for the family and the couple (later : end of their dreams, of the family unit, end of strong love between H&D, alone in the house at the end of the story) + when she sees him : she is disgusted, repulsed= hard to admit he is his son, imagine it will be hell to live with such a « creature » (40).


    1. Ben's physical appearance and behavior :


    H&D : hubristic behavior + defects + behavior (cf extract 3 : hypocritical) = have a punishment (Ben) who mirrors their personalities, who show their defects :

    - physical appearance of Ben echoes Harrriet's evil, dark side : Ben is ugly (« he was not a pretty baby » (30)) and seems to be aggressive because he may personify the evil part present in Harriet and David. To personify : to represent (an object or abstraction) by a human figure. Like a « black bruise » (13)= Ben who represents evil side of Harriet= a part of her soul.

    - behavior of Ben : « the baby seemed to be figthing its way out » (12) impression that the baby wants to escape from Harriet's stomach because Harriet may be the real poison, devil. By the way when he bit Harriet's nipple, he is violent whereas when the nurse put him in his cot he is « unprotesting » (63)= he seems to feel ill-at-ease with her, wants to escape her maybe.


    3) Appearances are dangerous


    Idea of appearances + POV (point of view) + perceptions + subjectivity : for example different reactions, perceptions in front of Ben :


    • The nurse : « a real little toughie » (17), « healthy boy » (20)

    • Dr Brett : « a real little wrestler » (21)

    • David : « a funny little chap » (28) (a bit ironical, seems disappointed)

    • Harriet : « alien » (96), « beast » (43), « he's like a troll, or a goblin or something » (45)


    Only Harriet finds he is a monster. Is he really a monster ? The other people present in the scene don't see him like Harriet. Every character has his/her own opinion. There is no general consensus (of opinion) to say that he sounded inhuman and devilish : just H's POV, it's subjective. Even impression of disagreement between doctor+ nurses and Harriet : they get « annoyed with her » (47) and have « critical looks » (72). Reason : she seems to cast the baby out : as if he were a pariah, a leper. Idea that Harriet underestimates him because he is different from the other babies for example different from Paul who is « a real baby, a real little child » (78-79), + different from her : « no recognition » (42) = for Harriet, hierarchy related to physical appearance. He is just a baby, it's not his fault if he is like this, maybe he is sick but Harriet mistreats him= not caring mother (same behavior towards Amy before). Amy is different but very sweet and soft. She seems to disown him = To refuse to acknowledge or accept as one's own (« his mother disliking him so much » (43). SO appearances are dangerous.


    4) The so-called moral vertues of Harriet are destroyed :


    Harriet seems to be perfect but it's just a fake impression, it's just her outside appearance. Here: she is untolerant, direspectful, crual towards Ben (cf 3rd idea) she is arrogant (she thinks she is better than him) and she sees/feels the scene in black and white (she dares to criticize him + value judgment). POV of Harriet : « thank God, thank God, it's over at least » = relieved, as if devil is outside her and God saved her from this pain. Idea of revenge : « the creature who, she had been sure, had been trying to hurt her » once again childish behavior of Harriet : must think « The baby hurts me in the womb so I'm going to do the same with him » : it's what children do = childish. So she takes it out on him to feel better.


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  • Comments

    Erika Carlier Erika Carlier profile
    Tuesday 17th April 2012 at 16:53

    I think that your ideas are very original and above all interesting. Besides, your plan about this extract is complete. I also studied the idea of rejection between Harriet and her last son (that is to say the strange maternal bond that she has with him, which is opposed to the relation that she has with her other children, especially with Paul, who is considered as a "real baby" by the rest of the family). Furthermore the idea of appearances is also very important in this extract. You did a good job Claire :)

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