How is the protagonist’s relationship with his/her mother the source of their alienation?
‘All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel Mother’ -Abraham Lincoln.’1
Alienation: a withdrawing or separation of a person, or a person’s affections from an object or position of former attachment2. Alienation is a key theme present in Woman at Point Zero3 and The Metamorphosis4 by Nawaal El Saadawi and Franz Kafka respectively which is accentuated by both authors to describe what the protagonists go through. With the use of diction, imagery, contrast and symbolism, it is seen how the absence of mother in the protagonist’s life in the two books contributes greatly to their alienation.
Gregor Samsa, from The Metamorphosis was the sole bread earner of his family, and was brought up in a society where men took charge. When he undergoes his metamorphosis, he cannot stand the fact that his family has to work and he ‘toyed with the idea that next time the door was opened, he would take the family’s affairs in hand’ (111). These thoughts suggest how much Gregor disliked the fact that ‘his mother had to do the cooking’ (96). The connotation of the word ‘toyed’ creates an image of how Mrs. Samsa was unable to act. Gregor’s desire for domination at this point in the novel begins to emerge, as he searches for his new place in the family, which symbolizes his attitude as he is executed from his bread earning position. However, at this point Gregor is unable to do anything and is left contemplating about it.
Nawaal El Saadawi shows us how Firdaus, from Woman At Point Zero never shared a normal relationship with her mother in the little time that she lived with her. Firdaus first notices her mother’s disregard when she tries to seek support from her body; she recalls how ‘instead of staying by [her] side to keep [her] warm, [her] mother used to abandon [her]’ (17). Firdaus only but once experiments to search for her mother’s love, and the denial significantly causes her to believe that her mother had been ‘replaced’ (18). The ‘warmth’ that she is out to seek, and how she was rejected from safety and motherly affection, facing ‘abandonment’ is symbolic of the disownment she faces from her mother. This rejection that Firdaus experiences as a child is significantly expressed by the diction choice of the word ‘abandon’, which creates a deserted, barren and cold image of how she feels. It creates a terrifying image of how she was distanced not only emotionally, but physically as well. This explains how harsh of a consequence Firdaus undergoes; she refuses to believe in the woman she now sees. This disturbing change in her love for her mother affects her gravely as she suppresses her craving to ever seek any kind of support from anyone, beginning her alienated journey.
Kafka shows us how Gregor Samsa from The Metamorphosis shared a similar yet different relationship with his mother, due to his physical state which caused his immobility....