The Lack Of Parental Affection As A

Theme In Cat’s Eye Essay, Research Paper

Parental affection is crucial in a childs life especially druing their formative years. Abscence of this loveing and tender behaviour can be detrimental to the child in their later life. In the novel Cat’s Eye, by Margaret Atwood, the main character Elaine Risley has sufered many emotional conditiona such as depression, suicidal tendencies, and has diplayed symptoms similar to that of a person suffering with schitzophrenia, all as a result of her parents’ lack of affection toward her. This emotional scarring affected every aspect of her life; her career, her marriages, and her family, as well as her ability to rationalize any of the decisions she had made in her life.

As a child Elaine was moved around, never establishing a permanent home until she was nine years old. During this time she was very dependant on her parents to provide comfort, friendship,as well as fulilling their parental responsibilities as teachers of valuble life lessons;

My mother smiles at me, in the kitchen with the woodstove, and hugs me with one arm. She thinks I’m happy. Some nights we have marshmallows, for a treat.(156)

Mrs. Risley’s obliviousness towards her daughters feelings is astonishing. Elaine is aware that ehr mother was ignorant regarding hr feelinfs. Her mother’s feeble attempt at affection, and the assumption that marshmallows would slove all of her daughters problems was the beginning of Elaine’s emotional downfal. How could a mother not sense her own daughters sorrow? this form of neglect proved to be quite seroius as it affected the way Elaine raised her own children. Hre maternal skills were affected thus creating an environment similar to that of her own childhood. Elaine was unaware of the cyclical effect this behavoiur entails. As a result of her mothers neglest. Elaines own family will suffer and this will continue to be detrimental to the unit, both individually as weel as a whole.

The neglect that Elaine suffered was not only at the hands of her mother. Her fathers career as an entomologist was demanding and the cause of their nomadic exsistence early in her life. Once a stable home was finally created, his time was even more pre occupied as he was now a university proffessor. Her mother’s attention is diverted as she devotes her energy into making their unfurnished house a home.

We’ll all have to pitch in says mother, which means that we are not to complain. We will have to do the best we can(33)

Although the intention was for a suitable home, a necessity in life, Elaine suffered alone:

i rub my eyes; i know it will be wrong to be seen crying…..

i feel trapped but now i’m lonley(34)

Her lonliness is evident suggesting that her career choice, although it was discoveres later on in her life, was inevitable. Painting is a very solitude expression of one’s feelings and inner self. Elain felt that she could never articualte her feelings openly in her home, which forced her to supress all of her emotions. When they were finally released, through her art, they were often misenterpreted, causing frustration for Elaine. It is obvious that Elaine’s career was severly, although not necessarily negativley, affected by her parents and their unresponsive behaviour towards her.

As Elaine matured her parents attitiude regarding their role in her life remained the same. the continued to provide material things that were required, but left Elaine emotionally empty. She is unable to communicate her feelings verbally because of her childhood. When situTIONS ARISE,although Ealine is physically an adult, she is still very childlike in her understanding of human emation:

this is so much like what a family would say, a mother, or an aunt that i’m thrown off guard. Who is this family, and whose family is it? suddenly Charna reacjes over to me and gives me a quick metallic hug. Maybe that warmth is genuine, maybe she really does like me, wish me well. I can almost believe it.(433)

a common gesture of warmth and affection such as a hug is too difficult for Elaine to understand. She cannot comprehend, nor can she believe that someone would want to hug her. For her entire life she was not able to accept affection for the simple reason that her parents never encouraed it during the most crucial years of her life.

Because Elaine never experienced the warmth of family that she should have, her life was permanently damaged. Positive reinforcement, affection, and understanding are important because they provide a sense of confidence that all people require. To know that you are loved and to constantly be reminded of that love ignites feelings of happiness, fullfillment, and importance. to feel special is a sentiment that all people, children especially, are intitled to. It is a parental responsibility to ensure that all areas of these feelings are constant rather than lacking, as was the case with Elaine Risley.


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