’s Bernadette Essay, Research Paper
Mavis Gallant’s Bernadette
Fear, it has a way of controlling everything that it comes in contact with.
As young children we are introduced to this intimidating desire with intrigue
and suspicion. As we age, the thoughts of fears become more like realities,
ideas of loneliness and death enter the picture as comprehensible thoughts and
views of the future. These issues make up the foundation of the Mavis Gallant
story “Bernadette”. In this story we are presented with the image of a young
French Canadian girl, who finds herself pregnant and without a husband. The
context of the story explores the relationships between the members of the
household in a fear associated manner. The relationship between the Knights
and Bernadette is the base of the story. These three people relate to each
other in an intimidating fashion and this is what makes Bernadette’s
predicament so difficult to overcome. As well, the family ties between Nora
and Robbie are explored. Their family relationship is one based on dependence,
and without this one factor the connection between the two results in
fearfulness of being alone. Fear has a way of attacking our judgment and this
is what makes associations between people an apprehensive and hard act.
The story is set in Quebec during the 1940-1950, when what you were was
the definition of who you were. As the story opens we are presented with the
main character Bernadette, who is concluding that she is one hundred and
twenty-six days pregnant. At this time in history it was quit common for young
rural girls to bare children at a young age. However, Bernadette is a single
French Canadian girl who is working and living in a urban community, where
things like that do not take place. We are here introduced to the first fear
presented in the story: –How will Bernadette tell the Knights that she is
pregnant? — The answer to the question is what haunts her, and the reaction of
the Knights is the anxiety that builds up inside of her. These intimidating
fears places Bernadette in a compromising situation, she is in a position of
abandonment by her family and the shame she thinks she has brought on to the
Knights. These fears have forced her to react in an unusual fashion.
Bernadette is so fearful of what they might think that she tries to hide
herself in her work so that she is not placed in the position where she will
have to interact with the Knights.
The fear of failure and disappointment took control over her mind.
When around the Knights she worked as a robot in order not to arouse ideas of
her current condition. Her nervous fears brought her to the point of giving in
to their expectations and allowing herself to lie to them about the books she
read and the men she saw. Her images of her dead siblings as angels would
comfort her fears at time, but would also bring up new ones. She would wonder
about her child and the life that was waiting for it; would it live a life like
hers or would it pray for her in the heavens.
The Knights were a couple that were brought together by convenience and
fears. Nora was concord by the fear of not being in control, she had to be the
one person everyone depended on in time of need. From her positions on
committees to the forgiving attitude she showed Robbie about his many affairs,
Nora always had the upper hand in any given situation. The affairs that Robbie
had, showed Nora that he wasn’t as dependent on her as she wanted him to be,
that is why she would treat the problem as a solvable condition, in order to
keep Robbie under her control. We are told about Robbie’s dreams of being a
playwright and fears of failure and the poverty that might follow. These
fears were reinforced by Nora; her fears of failure, allowed herself to place
her children into private boarding school, so that would not have to suffer the
thoughts of bringing up her children wrong. All the fears that controlled
their lives affirmed their ideas of how life was to be lived. The fears of
being alone brought Nora to the point where she was ready to do everything that
she could to keep Robbie apart of her life. This point is proven at the end of
the story when Nora’s suspicions about Robbie and Bernadette bring her to
suggesting that they pay for Bernadette to be placed in a home so that she can
continues her life with Robbie as if undisturbed. As well, the anxiety she
experiences is tested at the party she holds where her total control is lost by
all the disturbing news she is given about her husband and Bernadette. She is
forced to continue with the party in confusion and despair.
This intertwined relationship between the Knights and Bernadette
illustrate how people are fearful and deceitful to each other even when living
under the same roof. The fabrications of tales and unseen conditions brought
out the anxieties in each of the characters. These fears are manifested at the
initial start of the relationships and continue to grow if not put to rest.
This is seen when the pressure of the unborn child is released from
Bernadette’s conscience when Nora is forced to corner Bernadette in the kitchen
to question her about the suspicions of her pregnancy.
Bernadette and the Knights are characters that display for us the results
of what may happen when we let our fears control us to the point that they are
seen more as truth instead of obstacles. Fears are great deterrents and allow
us to see things not for what they are. In conclusion, we must all face the
fact that fears and anxieties will forever be present in our lives, but we must
progress to the stage where we can see them for what they are instead of
allowing them to enter our existing routines.