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Jim Grimsley: My Drowning Essay

1201 words - 5 pages

My Drowning, the third novel by Jim Grimsley, is the story of Ellen Tote's retrospective search for understanding and meaning of a dream that has been with her throughout her entire life. Poverty, abuse, neglect, and possibly an attempted infanticide are serious complications Ellen faces. Ultimately, in Jim Grimsley's words: "I think the truth can be glimpsed at moments in paradoxes and contradictions, in mysteries and ambiguities, [...] like Ellen solving the mystery of her own dream, which is that the dream is a mystery and will never be solved, that the dream has always been true, and a lie, at the same time. (Guardian lit)" The relationship between Ellen and her older sister Nora is a saving grace for Ellen, as Nora provides the love and support one would generally think a parent would provide and this relationship proves to be so beneficial that Ellen emulates the same relationship with the ghost of her deceased younger sister Alma Laura. Although Ellen and Nora are sisters their relationship is more like mother and daughter. "'Go put on some socks, Ellen,' Nora whispered, 'before you catch pneumonia,' and I nodded and skipped into the cold bedroom. None of us knew what pneumonia was, but we were all agreed it would be bad to catch (Grimsley 7)." Ellen yearned for her mother's love and affection:Mama sat in her chair with Joe Robbie in her lap, his soft legs dangling. She smoothed his hair. I am remembering, I am looking back. I am trying to see clearly, but I do not even know that what I am seeing is even true. How can the memory of so small a gesture be genuine? The movement of my mother's thick, blunt hand through Joe Robbie's hair repeats itself. Why have I remembered that? Maybe because of jealousy, because I wanted to sit in her lap myself. (Grimsley 15-16)Ellen's relationship with her parents is abusive. Ellen is second rate because she is a female:I was a girl, there was a difference. I had never thought much about this in conjunction with my older brothers, but now the baby made the distinction plain, and I saw it everyday. Mama's love poured down on Madson like a waterfall, clear and sparkling. Daddy, too, displayed his pride in his new son, carrying him in the crook of a flannel-sleeved arm while he sipped his whiskey or puffed his cigarette. Daddy had never touched me that I could recall, to hold me, only to hurt me. For Mama, I had become a creature made to fetch and carry, not even particularly useful since I could not, as Nora could, take the baby from her and tend to its needs in her place. I sat quiet and hungry in corners, my dress tucked between my knees. The pale mass of Madson in his blanket accused me in some way I failed to understand. (Grimsley 33-34) Nora looked after and looked out for Ellen. This is seen clearly in the following: Nora fought with Mama about my doll. Nora wanted Mama to take the doll from Joe Robbie so I could play with it. But any time anybody touched the doll,...

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