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Mother daughter relationship in Mary Gordon's Cleaning Up (short story) - Essay Example

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Summary
Although it is not one of her most mentioned stories, Mary Gordon’s “Cleaning Up” highlights the relationship between a daughter and her mentally unbalanced mother. The messages in the story are clear: never feel sorry for yourself and love your mother no matter…
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Mother daughter relationship in Mary Gordon's Cleaning Up (short story)

ut working for what you receive; therefore, Loretta never bathes for fear that she would be “putting herself in the camp of the Lavins’ children” (p. xx). Although she doesn’t like children, she makes an effort to engage herself in play with the oldest child, John Lavin, as her way of “pa[ying] her board” (p. xx). She knew her mother would have expected this of her. Although it is never written that the Lavin family is anything but accommodating during Loretta’s stay, Loretta constantly feels like an outsider. She is convinced that her mother’s actions caused Martine Lavin, the matriarch of the family, and other community members to see her as an inferior person. Later, when she becomes a well-educated woman, she still feels that her old community would condemn her because of her mother’s earlier behavior. “Cleaning Up” is, in parts, consistent with Gordon’s life. In the story, Loretta attains the same level of education that Gordon currently has. Loretta’s pre-college schooling is better than what Gordon was provided, but both earn a Master’s degree and use it to teach. Mother Perpetua is Loretta’s greatest influence. According to an Internet biography, Gordon received the same kind of influence from Elizabeth Hardwick and Janice Thaddeus. Gordon actually considered becoming a nun, a lifestyle that Loretta also briefly contemplates. Finally, Loretta’s work ethic is similar to Gordon’s. Gordon worked to support herself, just like Loretta. Against her mother’s advice, Gordon performed secretarial work and babysat for Thaddeus to put herself through school. Gordon’s own mother, though disfigured from and afflicted with polio, also worked as a secretary to support her family because her husband wouldn’t.
The fact that Loretta strives as hard as her mother would have wanted her to, makes it clear that Loretta loved her mother despite the turmoil she’d created. Even though Loretta never saw her mother again, she thinks about ... Read More
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