Sarah Jeannette Duncan’s A Mother in India
Patriarchal Victorian Men Create Monstrous Victorian Women
A Mother in India, as a story depends on the facade of appearance and the reality of emotional abandonment within a male dominated & Victorian society. Duncan’s point is that Victorian men create monstrous Victorian women. Relationships of any emotional worth are rendered impossible between Helena and her daughter Cecily because of a life long separation imposed by the father. It is impossible for Helena to be Cecily’s emotional or spiritual mother because Helena is not emotionally equipped to be anything else other than a servant to her husband. Her life has been pre-arranged by a series of male allowances and dictates. Helena and Cecily’s relationship must be emotionally void to work within the shallow, materialistic pre-arrangement of their lives. Helena has nothing to offer her daughter but the emptiness that she’s acquired over her lifetime.
Helena has spent her life in an emotional vacuum. When Helena is forced to draw on emotional experience for her daughter’s sake she finds immature childish emotions are all she has. Cecily is as a doll to Helena that does not live up to its warranty upon close scrutiny. She recoils from the situation looking with repugnance at her alien possession. Cecily is frequently referred to as an it as opposed to my daughter by Helena. Cecily is also frightened by the appearance of her estranged Mother and this is reasonable for a four year old. Helena however, reacts with swallowed anger and removes herself from Cecily and the situation. This is also very childish, but understandable considering Helena’s emotional maturity. Helena, like a scolded four year old, sends herself to a room where she is safely locked away by herself for two atrocious hours (6). It is at this point that it becomes apparent that the mother and daughter relationship is doomed for the lack of an emotionally developed or mature mother.