"An Empty Vessel"
Corey Binns '00 English 27, 1997
Both acts of reclamation, Mary's struggling abortion on the table at the Witch doctor's home echoes of Waterland's fens and incessant dredging. While men dredge land out of the rivers, daily reclaiming land from the bottom of the rivers, the process infinitely circles. Water continually washes away the manmade land piles and men continually dredge the washed out land back out of the rivers. Dredging is an invention of the Industrial Revolution, its unnatural and work intensified tendency to fight water flow in order to protect land represents the extremes man goes to avoid abandoning his mother country. Similar to man's dredging of the fens, the Witch dredges out the fetus inside Mary in order to reclaim her virgin womb. Ridding her body of an unwanted child, Mary desperately seeks to return to the refuge of innocence and curiosity which inevitably leads her to the Witch and her potions. The botched abortion leaves Mary eternally infertile, her womb permanently reclaimed.
"Children, women are equipped with a miniature model of reality: an empty but fillable vessel. A vessel in which much can be made to happen, and to issue in consequence. In which dramas can be brewed, things can be hatched out of nothing." (Swift, 42).
Here, history teacher Tom Crick equivocates reality with the womb, suggesting mothers can produce almost anything out of absolutely nothing. Mothers, Crick lectures, create history-- understanding history is understanding one's identity, a phenomenon formed by one's family, which blossoms out of a mother. As the mechanism for procreation of families, identities and histories, motherhood is reality. According to Crick, reality is untainted history, revealing itself from within the vessels of mothers. "And there's no saying what heady potions we won't imbibe in order to convince ourselves that reality is not an empty vessel." (Swift, 41). The reality of Mary's forever empty vessel culminates in Mary's kidnapping a baby from a grocery store, an act which she proclaims God sent her to do. Mary's concocts "potions" of religious beliefs as she reasons with God about her barrenness; her religion solidifies upon the goals of reclaiming rights to her womb and filling her empty vessel with the unreality of a child.
In contrast to Crick, Suleri writes that along with the realization of sexuality comes the loss "of the differentiated identities of history and ourselves and [we] became guiltily aware that we had known it all along, our part in the construction of unreality." (Suleri, 13). Suleri's women, do not aid in the making of history as Crick suggested, rather they add to the undoing of history and the "construction of unreality". While Crick lectured on the reality implanted in each woman, Suleri considers womanhood and sexual coming of age a disintegration of reality.
"What Mamma Knew"
"When I first entered the university, the thought of being-in such a literal way-my mother's student was strange to me, putting us both in a novel setting, over books." (Suleri, 153).
In Meatless Days, Suleri entitles a chapter "What Mamma Knew", a conglomeration of teachings Suleri learned from her mother, an inevitable consequence of motherhood and childrearing/bearing. Children often learn most from their mothers, as mothers tend to be the persons with which children spend most of their time at a critical learning stage in their lives. "For her preferences were there in every room, putting words into my mouth before my taste buds had a acquired a means to cope with their suggestion." (Suleri, 151). Our mothers teach us to speak, they teach us their language and their preferences. Mothers also choose not to teach, a fact which Omar learned quickly once freed from his mothers' country. "Needless to say, what mothers had hidden from him for twelve years, schoolboys unveiled in twelve minutes." (Rushdie, 41). A mother's influences remain strong and timeless due to the early and concentrated hours with which she spends with her children.
As a mothering figure, Mary tried to teach Dick Crick about sex, including him in her endless lessons on the search for sexuality. However, Mary's teaching proved hopeless due to the enormous size of Dick's penis and his inability to comprehend what goes into making a baby. Meanwhile Tom Crick begins to wonder, "Supposing it's not such a simple matter of teacher and pupil; supposing Mary's out to learn a thing or two as well." (Swift, 256). He doubts whether Mary's teachings come solely from maternal extinct but rather include her undeniable desire to learn while teaching. The act of mothering can not be concretely allocated as a teaching process, just as childhood encompasses more than an institution of learning. The educational responsibilities of mother and child are interchangeable, they share a common desire to combine their knowledge and each feeds from the other's widening array of intellect.
- Feminizing Narrative and Landscape: Images of Women in Three Postcolonial Texts
- The Female Landscape
- Imagery of Locked Women
- The Postcolonial Mother Country
- "An Empty Vessel"
- The Shame of Motherhood
- The Joys of Motherhood