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Question C: Focus on the relations between parents and children. Consider: what is passed on from older generation to the younger; what children in these literary arts works need from their parents and what they get; what does the general relationship signify for American families in the mid 20th century?
There are various aspects in the stories Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, Good Country People by Flannery O'Connor, and Babylon Revisited by Fitzgerald that can be compared and contrasted. These stories can be compared in terms of the relations between parents and children, the values passed to children, expectations of the children as well as the general relationship that the three stories signify for the American families in the mid 20th century.
Arthur Miller in his story Death of a Salesman focuses on terrifying conflicts that arise in one family. The protagonist, Willy spends most of his life as a sales man trying to find his true identity. This desire obscures him from realizing his failures and the betrayal of his soul, which culminates into his suicide. The story also addresses major issues regarding American national values. Therefore, it touches on the relations between parents and children. In the story, there are different values that are passed from the old generation to the younger. Generally, Miller states that America has been passing false myth constructed around issues of capitalistic materialism, which is a result of post war economy. This form of materialism has hindered individuals from getting the truth as well as the moral vision that was initiated by the country founders who had a great American dream. Indeed, the book reflects American values. Young generations are now craving for material success that defines an individual in the contemporary society. Notably, America has faced several domestic challenges after the World War II. It also affected American confidence, security as well as the sense of prosperity. This in its turn affected the traditions that were passed to the later generations. Miller argues that young generations have been exposed to bitter racial conflict, ignoring important factors such as economic prosperity.
On the other hand, the story Good Country People by Flannery O'Connor focuses on two families of distinct social classes. In this story, the relation between the parents and their children is evident in both families. The first family is Mrs. Hopewell, a widow, and her daughter Hulga, who is later changed to Joy. The second family is that of Mrs. and Mr. Freeman with their daughters Glynese and Caramae. The relations between Hopewell and her daughter are determined by money. She places herself higher in the society due to her higher education level. She does not have time to pass good values to her daughter. Indeed, she openly shows hatred of the Freeman’s family to her daughter. Thus, she does not inculcate values that are needed by her daughter. On the contrary, Freemans are poor. The family is not free. This is simply because they do not have hope of ever enjoying financial or social freedom, as it is the case with the Hopewell.
Scott Fitzgerald's Babylon Revisited story revolves around Charlie Wales and his daughter Honoria. In this story, the relationship between parent and children is evident from the fact that Charlie has gone back to Paris to get custody of her daughter. Previously, his wife, Helen, had died and he wished her sister Marion to stay with his daughter. Charlie is an example of parents who are passing bad values to their young ones. Virtually, Charlie is a drunkard who thinks that alcohol makes him more real. He is also accused by Marion of having killed his wife. His excessive drinking is an indication of recklessness as he did not care for his families as he is supposed to.
On the contrary, the main character in Death of a Salesman, Willy Loman is very desperate as he tries to search his past and understand himself. He lives in self deceptions and ignores the truth about his self realization. His son, Biff wanted his father to explain him a sense of truth about himself. However, he did not get what he expected. His father, Willy makes the uttermost sacrifice of leaving an inheritance that will enable his son to achieve the American dream. However, that was not the main interest of his son. Unlike his parents, who were unable to acknowledge the nature of their lives, Biff is able to face reality of his failures, which eventually enables him to confront them.
In the story Good Country People by Flannery O'Connor, parents pass values to their children that do not benefit them. Notably, Hopewell shows her daughter how to hate the poor families like the Freemans’. She does not regard their importance in the society. The families are divided according to social, educational, and financial status. However, this is not what children expect from their parents. The children want to develop a sense of unity and harmony despite the differences in their social classes. This is evident through the three daughters used by O'Connor. On the other hand, Babylon Revisited by Fitzgerald sounds like a warning. The main character, Charlie is struggling with addiction. He is suffering from the consequences of his addiction. He is seeking custody of his daughter, while at the same time he is being accused of having killed his wife. This makes his life more miserable.
The general relationships between children and their family depicted in the story portray the life of the American families in the mid 20th century. In Death of a Sales Man, Willy and Happy were working very hard in order to fulfill the American dream. Indeed, Willy is obsessed by the American dream. Biff’s parents were trying as much as they can to ensure that their children were in a position to contribute to the fulfillment of the American dream. Therefore, various families struggled with various failures and were unable to face reality and self realization. This was inherited by their children, unless they resolved to act differently, like Biff. Indeed, Willy commits suicide due to the inner struggle he was going through. As a salesman, he realized that the product he sold was “himself”; therefore he decides to end his life.
From the story Good Country People by Flannery O'Connor, it is evident the families in the 20th century were divided in terms of their social and financial status. The poor were stratified in their own setting. They did not enjoy freedom. The educated and the wealthiest families of United States enjoyed absolute freedom. Notably, the Freemans lived as if they were in slavery. Their daughters did not enjoy good life as it was the case with Joy, the daughter of Hopewell.
On the other hand, in the story Babylon Revisited, Fitzgerald tells a story of his life. He shows how difficult it is for an addictive person to break out of the cycle of addiction. Although the story does not directly define 20th century families in United States, it gives a glimpse of how alcohol addiction can adversely affect the life of an individual and his/her family. Notably, Fitzgerald struggled with addiction for fifteen years and was unable to break the cycle of addictive lifestyle.
In conclusion, the three stories depict some of the events that take place in most American families. The stories reflect the relationship between families in the mid 20th century and how children have been affected by the behaviors they inherit from their parents.
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