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Our Desires Come From Others Essay

1760 words - 8 pages

The short story “Girl”, written by Jamaica Kincaid, is a mother’s compilation of instructions and guidance to her daughter. The mother believes her offer of practical and helpful advice will assist her daughter in becoming a respectable woman in society. Similarly, in the novel Persuasion, written by Jane Austen, Sir Walter provides guidance for his daughter, hoping that she acknowledges the importance of her social class and marrying a suitable match. Although both parents are concerned for their children’s future, their advice do not come directly from their heart but are shaped by society’s values and expectations. This is equivalent to the theory of “mimetic desire”-- one person is ...view middle of the document...

However, according to Matthew Taylor, the mother’s act of persuading her daughter to grow into a respectable woman is analogous to mimetic desire (page 105). The mother’s wish for her daughter is modeled and directed by others. Either the mother knows and admires someone who possesses the skills and characters that help her build a respectable status in the community, or the mother has come to realize from her life experience that society expects a proper woman to acquire certain qualities. As she sees how her community desires that kind of woman figure, the mother is motivated to put emphasis of how domestic and organization skills indicate the level of respectability in her lesson so that her daughter understand how to obtain and display proper characters that meet society’s standards and help her earn respects from others.
Likewise, Sir Walter’s guidance for his daughter is not developed from his familial role but from society’s value for title and property. When Mr. Shepherd calls Wentworth, Anne’s former love, a gentleman, Sir Walter protests that Mr. Shepherd “misled him by the term gentleman” and remembers that Mr. Wentworth was “nobody.” Here, Sir Walter emphasizes his idea of a gentleman. He must come from superior birth—his name must appear in Sir Walter’s favorite book, the Baronetage, or he must possess some property. A man without property and high social standing is considered nothing to Sir Walter. Because Wentworth was nobody, Anne’s father took little interest in supporting her marriage with Wentworth eight years ago. Sir Walter’s reason for his objection is supported by critic Taylor’s argument-- “persuasion in the novel goes beyond the connotation of "guidance" or "advice". "Persuasion," is nearly synonymous with "mimetic desire."” (page 150). Sir Walter’s suggestion for Anne does not come directly from his good intention as her father. He disapproves the marriage not because he sees the dangers of his daughter committing herself at a young age to a man of uncertain prospects. Rather, his strong attachment to the significance of birthright and property causes him to deem Wentworth an inapproriate match for a woman of Anne’s position. Marrying a man of inferior birth and no property would be degradation to his status. This marriage would not help Sir Walter achieve his dream of emphasizing his family’s place in society but also cause him to lose his own prestige. The society’s conservative respect for title and wealth models Sir Walter’s view of what a suitable marriage is and persuades him to advise his daughter that the idea of breaking up is necessary.
Despite the similarity in what stimulates the parent’s advice, the intentions behind each guidance are different. In her lesson, the mother teaches her daughter “how to bully a man, how to love a man” and tells her “how a man bullies her”. In the society they live in, women are the inferior gender. Thus, the mother sees the importance of teaching her daughter how to deal...

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