• TFC: extract 5

    • DELIVERY FOR HARRIET : ‘thank god , thank god , it’s over at last’ l.16-17

    ‘she raised herself with difficulty ‘ related to painting of Henri Fuseli named nightmare , it’s a nightmare for Harriet to give birth to Ben


    • BIRTH OF BEN , BIGINING OF THE DESTRUCTION : when he was born ‘he came out fighting the whole world’ , he have a real aim : destruction related to picture where we see a giant baby walking under soldiers and destroy everything in his passage

    Beside he look at his mother (l.38) while he don’t pay attention to his sibling (l.91), he rejected them (l.93-94)



    “eleven pounds’ contrary to the other ‘’had not been more than seven pounds’

    ‘muscular’; ‘yellowish’ they are many adjectives who qualified him  (l.25-26-30)

    *it’s creating a strange atmosphere (l.54-55-61-64)

    It’s related the picture where we see a monster in a baby park and the picture where they are four apple and one is red for focus our attention on the fact that Ben are different physically to the other children



    Even his mother doesn’t like him because of her appearance (l.42-43) and Ben reject the external world too (l.95-96)



    Harriet regret the arrival of Ben because she don’t have been the time to pay attention to baby Paul (l.74-75-76-77-78-79) beside Ben is ugly contrary to baby Paul: they are physically different. Nevertheless she react like a mother (l.51 to 59)



    In my opinion I thing that Harriet had another image of Ben and when she see him in reality hit’s destroy this representation of him (l.45) it’s related to the picture of René Magritte la trahison des images and the image named ambiguous perception: old or young.

    your comment
  • Fifth extract of The Fifth Child (Doris Lessing):

    Pbq: Why can we say that Ben's birth will have a deep impact on the Lovatt's family life?

    Main ideas:

    Pregnancy denial: " And as she walked, strode, ran along the country lanes, she fantasised that she took the big kitchen knife, cut open her own stomach,lifted out the child" on line 1 to line 3.

    Idea that the pains were stronger that in the past ( very hard pregnancy for Harriet): "By the time she was there,there were strong wrenching pains, worse, she knew, than ever in the past" on line 10.

    Idea of a real oblivion at the end of the pregnancy. Indeed on line 16/17 it is written: "When at last the moment came when she could be given oblivion, she cried out, "Thank God, thank God, it's over at last".

    Idea that Ben doesn't looks like a real baby (contrary to his siblings) because on line 30 it is written: " He did not look like a baby at all".

    Idea that Ben is rejecting his siblings since his birth: "Jane, the four-year-old, took one of his feet in her hand, then in her two hands, but he vigorously kicked her away" on line 93.

    Futur animal side of Ben which appear in this extract with the word "roar" on line 64.

    Various feelings of Harriet toward Ben such as guilt or fear for example (" And her heart contracted with pity for him: poor little beast, his mother disliking him so much..." on line 42/43.

    Material bond which doesn't seem to be normal ( " And she cuddled him to make up" on line 45).

    Idea that according to Harriet, Ben seems to be happy to make her suffer: " A strong sucking reflex, and then hard gums clamped down on her nipple, and she winced. The child looked at her and bit, hard" on line 56 to line 59.

    Opposition between Ben's physical appearance and Paul's physical appearance.

    The name Ben means pain or suffering: " We are going to call him Ben," said Harriet. " Are we? said David. "Yes, it suits him" ( from line 87 to line 89).

    your comment
  • 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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