Family Relationships in Annie John Novel
The relationship between Annie and her mother is the most important theme of the novel. The anxiety and disputes provoked by their alienation is what drives the plot, what starts the novel and finishes it. It is crucial to understand Annie’s claims that her mother is trying to exclude her, as they are what makes Annie live her life as she does. We will explore whether her claims are valid or not through different means: first of all, the way we see Annie’s mom is subjective as we can only see her through Annie’s point of view, secondly, her mother seemed like a really nice and caring person, and is respected by everyone else, finally, Annie is overreacting to what her mother says or does, therefore imagining their alienation.
It is important to note that the novel is written in the first person, we see the world through Annie John’s eyes. Our opinion of the characters is therefore biased because they are in reality Annie’s opinion, which change overtime as she learns. There is no dialogue, therefore no outside view. The narrator is unreliable. Annie’s point of view also changes over time as she grows up and therefore learns to form her own opinion and live her own life. This is shown when Annie believes her mother is repulsed by her: “What a new thing this was for me: my mother’s back turned on me in disgust.”, we cannot know if her mother’s back is really turned in disgust. The word disgust is an especially powerful word as it means that Annie’s mother has a strong aversion for Annie. It is not very believable that a mother would have such strong feelings towards her child, especially because Annie and her mother were very close before. We can see that Annie imagines things that are not real, she imagines her mother hating her and being disgusted by her even though she cannot justify it.
Annie’s hatred for her mother comes from her childhood fear of being abandoned, although she never actually was, by her mother, she has panic attacks and overreacts to everything that might have to do with her being excluded. Annie’s hatred for her mother roots from two key moments in the novel. First of all, her recurring dream about being abandoned: “Over and over I would have the dream—only in it my mother never came back, and sometimes my father would join her.” In this quote, we can see that Annie deeply fears being abandoned by her mother as she has the dream ‘over and over’, which means that she cannot get the thought out of her head. A dream is an idea or vision that is created in your imagination and that is not real This shows her obsession with this fear, to the point that she imagines it even though she doesn’t actually live it. Secondly, Another way this is shown is when she panics for trivial things. For example, when her mother says: ‘”Oh, no. You are getting too old for that. It’s time you had your own clothes. You just cannot go around the rest of your life looking like a little me.”‘ Annie reacts as if this was the end of the world: ‘To say that I felt the earth swept away form under me would not be going too far.’ Annie does not accept that her mother and herself are different people. She thinks that this is an attempt from her mother to alienate and therefore abandon Annie. Once again, she imagines a separation that is not really there. The words ‘swept away from under me’ suggest that someone has taken something from Annie and that she cannot stand anymore. This is a huge overreaction as her mother simply suggests that she should have her own clothes. These types of distresses are common for Annie. She has panic attacks throughout the books and very brutal reactions to things that are considered normal: “I was sure I could never let those hands touch me again; I was sure I could never let her kiss me again. All that was finished.” We can see that Annie is overreacting here also, as she doesn’t want her mother to touch her anymore because she has seen her parents make love. With the words ‘all that’, Annie suggests that everything that constitutes their loving relationship has been destroyed. Annie feels as if she is being excluded from her parents’ relationship, and she doesn’t want to accept it. She thinks by having sex with her father, her mother is replacing her and that she is no longer her top priority. However, Annie cannot prove this, it is only in her head, making her hatred unjustifiable.
At first, Annie’s mother seems like a caring person, and everyone else respects her, Annie’s hatred is not shared by anyone, which doesn’t make it believable. At the market, Annie’s mother is solicited and respected by everyone and she is portrayed as an influential and powerful figure. When she is with her mother, Annie feels special: “How important I felt to be with my mother. “. The word ‘important’ conveys a sense of power and value, Annie’s mother is the most crucial person in the marketplace and everyone wants her attention. We can see that everyone else therefore respects her. Annie’s reasons for her hatred are not credible because not one else shares her opinion. Annie’s mother therefore seems like a very respectable person. This is also shown when Annie is sick. Her parents care for her as if she was still a child, proving that they care a lot about her and that her aversion for her mother is totally unjustified. ‘I was fifteen years old, but the two of them handled me as if I were just born. ‘ When a baby is born is when the parents’ love is usually at its maximum. We can see with the way her parents care for Annie that they still love her as they loved her on the day she was born. The fact that she is fifteen years old but still needs to be taken care of like a new-born child also shows her immaturity and her emotional dependence. We can conclude that Annie has totally blown out of proportion what she thinks was her parents excluding her from their relationship. In the final scene, Annie mother tells her that she still loves her: “It doesn’t matter what you do or where you go, I’ll always be your mother and this will always be your home”. This is one of the only times when we hear Annie’s mother true voice through Annie’s internal monologue. The word ‘mother’ is often associated with maternal love, caring and support; Annie’s mother is therefore seen as a traditional mother who cares for her child. The word ‘home’ also conveys this idea of hospitality and warmth, which is contradictory to the whole of Annie’s adolescence. This touching last moment contradicts everything Annie thought she knew about how her mother viewed her. However, she is still bitter and the reader doesn’t know if she believes her mother or not. These last words unveil the mother’s true feelings and show that Annie’s hatred was never justifiable.
We can now clearly assess that Annie’s hatred for her mother is unjustifiable, as it does not have a valid reason and isn’t proven by any thing else than Annie’s imagination. It is important to state that their alienation was partly imagined by Annie and fully caused by these imaginations, as we can now see that she needed to believe her mother hated her to fully become independent.
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