We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves Literary Critical Analysis
In the book “We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves” by Karen Fowler, we follow the narrator Rosemary Cooke, known as Rose in the book, as she comes to terms with her past, her present, and her future. The story begins in the middle years of her life. the reason she starts from the middle is because she finds those parts to be the most interesting. But today I’m going to focus on how their family had fallen apart. In the novel, Rose has been attending college in UCD for the last five years, still with no idea of what she wants to do with her future. Rose reflects on a problematic relationship with her parents. She’s on speaking terms with her mother, but she almost never talks to her father outside of family gatherings. When they do speak, things are always tense. ‘My parents persisted in pretending we were a close-knit family, a family who enjoyed a good heart-to-heart, a family who turned to each other in times of trial.’’-Rosemary, Part 1, Chapter 3
In this part, Rose is totally not surprised by the fact that her family does not discuss about her arrest at Thanksgiving party. Even though her parents are the scientist who believe in the matter- of-fact, they never explained anything related to it to her. It‘s clear that Rosemary’s parents are not what they seem like. Here Rose expands her idea on her parents are appearing like a normal family, while they are hiding some secrets in reality. Her parents exclude things that are deemed scandalous by our society—criminality, sex, alcoholism—from their narrative about their own family. Rose also indicates that there is a high cost to such dishonesty, which involves the fact that when her family engages in denial about a certain issue (such as her father’s drinking), there is always a person is left to deal with the issue alone and unsupported. “Don’t forget, you are always on our minds.” Part 1, chapter 3
Rose reflects on how tense things are with their family when she goes to the thanksgiving party in her grandma’s house, as there are a number of forbidden subjects they can’t bring up. She also mentions that she has not only a brother, but another sibling–Fern as well. She speaks out the fact that her family ignores the past, which includes the missing siblings. At home, Rose’s mother surprises and moves her by giving her the old journals of the past. She also tells Rosemary that Rose hurts her father when she doesn’t talk to him, and her father has suggested that rather than donate the old journals to library, give them to Rose would be a better choice. Then Rose’s father comes in and gives her a fortune in the cookie he has saved for her– “Don’t forget, you are always on our minds.” From that moment, Rose sees her family as “good,” loving, and happy—Things she had not felt in a long time.
Reaching the end of chapter three, the Deteriorating relation in Rose’s family finally occurred some changes. The fortune in the cookie has the purpose of revealing how Rosemary’s parents felt about her even though they never had any openly expression for her. Here the author wanted to highlight through this was that Rosemary was loved but that unfortunately her parents were unable to communicate properly with her. Rosemary’s family is mired in dishonesty and denial since long times ago, but that doesn’t mean that the parents don’t want to be warm, loving, and supportive for their family. Also, Rose herself is also tempted to engage in the same dishonesty and denial as her parents in order to think of her family as something that is far happier and warmer than it actually is.
“Language does this to our memories—simplifies, solidifies, codifies, mummifies. An oft-told story is like a photograph in a family album; eventually, it replaces the moment it was meant to capture.”-Part 1, chapter 7 Rose spends significant text of the narrative reflecting on the nature of the past and memory. Especially memory is a rather troubled topic for Rose, ever since her family have an agreement not to discuss “the past.” Rose makes a similar kind of agreement with herself about not to think or talk about Fern anymore after Fern is taken away. Of course, when some important things or people, such as a sister who you really love, repress for too long, could cause serious problems. In Rosemary’s case, it leaves her with a fragmented sense of her own past and identity in her memory. This sense of fragmentation gets emphasized when Rosemary discusses her access to her own memories and her family’s past. She writes: “There are moments when history and memory seem like a mist, as if what really happened matters less than what should have happened. The mist lifts and suddenly there we are, my good parents and their good children, their grateful children who phone for no reason but to talk, say their good-nights with a kiss, and look forward to home on the holidays.”(chapter1, part3) The fact that Rose characterizes history and memory as mist—rather than the forces of denial and pretense—shows us how confused her sense of history and reality is.
Also, Rose describes a moment in which, at the age of eight, a memory of her early childhood came back to her like some pieces of a puzzle. The fact that Rose’s metaphors of her past “mist” and “puzzle” illustrates the difficulty, pain, and confusion that were already implanted deep to her relationship to her own past, family, and herself. Here the writer highlights the tension between the fact that people are defined by their family and past yet must also constantly struggle to make sense of these things.
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