Her best thing?, autonomy versus dependence in the roles of mother and daughter

Thumbnail Image
Hopkins, Elizabeth
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
This thesis explores various aspects of the mother-daughter relationship from a psychoanalytic and feminist perspective. Toni Monison's Beloved and Marilynne Robinson's housekeeping offer two distinct interpretations of the dynamics of mother-daughter interactions. Chapter Two, which deals with Beloved discusses the way in which Sethe can be perceived as the all-giving mother of psychoanalytic theory, particularly that of Melanie Klein and D. W. Winnicott. Vivien Nice provides a feminist analysis of motherhood, which helps to explain Sethe's self-destructive actions as she strives to fulfill an unrealistic and unattainable ideal of motherhood. Chapter Three, on Housekeeping, again uses psychoanalytic theory to illuminate the relationship between Ruth and Sylvie who, in no way, conforms to the role of the "ideal" mother figure. Also addressed is the relationship Ruth has with her biological mother, Helen, who, although she is dead, occupies most of Ruth's thoughts and influences her actions. This thesis examines the complexities of the mother-daughter relationship and questions the adequacy of psychoanalyt c theories of mothering in light of the novels and in light of feminist analyses of mothering.