Patricia Becker-“Interaction on the basis of a parent-child relationship must be observable attention for one another”. All parent and child relationships have experienced times of hardship and adversity that when overcome make the bond stronger. Unexpected changes in the parent-child relationships cause disturbances and can escalate the existing problems in their lives by means of psychological pain and societal dilemmas. However, it can also further help to improve the parent-child relationship. The grieving parents that lack hope must depend on their love for their children in order to overcome these times of hardship and unhappiness. Parents, like Ma in Emma Donoghue’s Room and the Man in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, rely on their child’s love to overcome the psychological effects from feeling lost and hopeless in a society with no order; they commit their lives to the sole protection of their child from danger, and strive to find happiness through their children.
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Within society there are laws, social norms that allocate order. However when society goes through a sudden change, there may be psychological effects that occur to the people who have trouble adapting to new environments. As the parent and child are forced to adjust and adapt to a new world that is unfamiliar to their standards, their relationship will have to face conflict and experience misunderstandings along the way. However, their bond between each other will assist them in adapting better to the new social norms of society. In the Room by Emma Donoghue the character of Ma becomes subject to a significant life change when Old
Nick kidnaps her. Old Nick takes away Ma’s freedom and removes her from society. She is then left to face the physical and mental pains from the world that Old Nick creates for her. Ma’s new world was “just basic [twelve-by-twelve], vinyl coated steel. But he added a sound proofed skylight, and lots of insulating foam inside the walls, plus a layer of sheet lead, because lead kills all sound” (Donoghue, 84). Ma is forced to live in this isolated room and it begins to compromise her mental stability as she is taken away from society and what she calls “the real world” (Donoghue, 85). As a result of this imprisonment, Ma experiences many psychological effects as things “seemed to get smaller or bigger…. sometimes [she] heard voices from the TV telling [her] things” (Donoghue, 94). Although Ma is forcefully held in confinement for several years in this room, she becomes a new person once her son Jack is born. Jack gives her the ability to overcome these times of suffering and misery because she now has a new purpose in life. She shows her love for Jack, when she cries out, “Yeah, but for me, seeing Jack was everything. I was alive again” (Donoghue, 233). To Ma, Jack symbolizes purity, innocence and happiness, the same qualities, which she once possessed in her previous life. With Jack present she begins to regain what she has lost and is able to slowly overcome the psychological effects of feeling hopeless in an unfamiliar society. When Ma eventually escapes the room, she is confronted with adversity and struggle when trying to deal with the outside world, as she no longer is accustomed with the social norms of society. In the outside world, photographers, media and unknown civilians, hound Ma and Jack. As a result Ma is mentally and emotionally
overwhelmed, as she feels psychologically weak. Tim Grice in his paper, Changes in Social Identities argues that any new person joining a new social environment equals a sudden change and the person will have to accommodate to the new social standards and this may cause a new
psychological state of adjustment. Even though Ma is unable to put up with all the problems that she has faced in her life, she begins to overcome these obstacles and strives for happiness because of Jack. Like Ma in the Room, the Man in The Road also feels hopeless and doomed for failure, as the world he once lived in has collapsed due to an apocalyptic epidemic that has wiped out the majority of civilization. The Man is confused about his current life; he is angry with God; he shouts, “On this road there are no godspoke. They are gone and I am left alone and they have taken with them the world” (McCarthy, 32). He has developed this hatred for God because he feels God has taken away everything from him. The Man experiences suffering and misery because he is unable to cope with the lack of order and the social norms of the new world. This causes him to feel hopeless and uncertain about life. In spite of these changes the Man must overcome and fight to achieve a new found happiness, he perseveres because his belief is that the Boy is “carrying the fire” (McCarthy, 283). The Man believes that the carrying of the fire symbolizes good and purity; it signifies that his only purpose left in life is his son. This will force him to overcome the shambles of society and continue to search for happiness in this world of chaos. The new world is “barren, silent, godless”, but yet the Man is still willing to fight and survive the fight through love for his son.
In a society with no rules or order, there is bound to be unforeseen problems and conflicts that terrify and frighten people. It is much easier to cope with these dilemmas when you have someone special to fight for. When parents must face an obstacle, the deep feelings for their child are exposed as they strive to keep him or her safe. Despite all the psychological pain Ma has experienced in the room, she was able to acquire new motivation in her life; this being the birth of Jack. Before his birth Ma felt dead, hopeless and defeated. Jack makes her feel alive
again as she now has the duty to protect her son from Old Nick. Ma tells Jack that “[she] just [doesn’t] want [Old Nick to] look at [him]. Even when [he was] a baby, [she] always wrapped [him] in a blanket before [Old Nick] came in” (Donoghue 26). Jack is Ma’s only purpose left in life; he symbolizes her happiness and joy. Ma does not want Jack to go through what she has experienced and does not want Old Nick to blemish the innocence and purity of Jack. Ma has taken great care and gone through some rough times with Old Nick in order to protect Jack. As a result of these overcome hardships, the bond between Ma and Jack becomes more and more strong. Once Jack and Ma escape from the room, they are troubled with the social norms of society and begin to panic, as they are unfamiliar with this new environment. The media is constantly following the two and in one instance a reporter calls Jack“a freak. Ma is able to avoid further confrontations with the media and protect Jack from these obscenities. Jack is able to overcome any sense of emotional pain because of his mother’s love. She repeatedly tells him, “You’re the one who matters, though. Just you” (Donoghue, 256). Ma spends most of her life dedicated to Jack because as there love for one another continuously grows. As a result, they are more effective in their fight for survival and able to overcome their miseries. Ma and Jacks relationship are similar to that of the Man and the Boy as they also share the same protective love in such a cruel and brutal world. The Man will do anything in his power to keep the Boy out of harms way because he is the most important aspect of the Man’s life. The Boy was born into a world filled with pain and suffering, where this epidemic revealed the true “frailty of everything” (McCarthy, 28). The only objective for the Man was to protect the Boy from the “bad guys” (McCarthy, 79). Through all the times of despair and suffering, the Man’s love for the Boy grows to become stronger than ever which is evident when the Man states, “My job is to take
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care of you. I was appointed to do that by God. I will kill anyone who touches you” (McCarthy, 77). The Boy represents purity, innocence and happiness to the Man he will do anything to protect the Boy. Both the Man and Ma hoped that their children would not have to be born under the current circumstances that consist of misery, but because of their children they are motivated to overcome these obstacles.
Trying to adjust and adapt to a new society can result in many difficulties for an individual. It can bring pain to one’s life and even make him or her confused and uncertain of his or hers own existence. It is much easier to overcome these fears and struggles when one has someone important in their life. Like Ma in the Room, the only thing that allows her to persevere and fight for survival is her son Jack. Without Jack she would have given up on herself in her state of hopelessness and confusion. Michael Myers argues in Subjective and Objective measures’ of Parent-Child Relationship that maintaining a joint attention relationship between a parent and child will further develop the relationship, as they are able to connect their thoughts and feelings. Without Jack, Ma would have already taken her own life because of the negative impacts the past has placed on her. To her, “Jack was everything” (Donoghue, 233), and because of Jack, she felt alive again. Jack was a symbol of hope and faith for Ma. Similarly, the Man in The Road also depends on the love for his son to keep him on the path of happiness and freedom. The world the Man now lives in is a world that is cruel and barbaric, yet he is still able to find a sense of hope and purpose through the connection to his son. The Man always expresses his love for his son as he says to him, “The one thing I can tell you is that you won’t survive for yourself. I know because I would have never come this far” (McCarthy, 57). He would have never gotten this far in such a world if it was not for his son; his son represented the fulfillment and joy in the
Man’s previous life. The Man continues to live and persevere for survival because his son is everything to him. This is shown when he tells his son, “You have my whole heart. You always did. You’re the best guy. You always were” (McCarthy, 279). Without the Boy, the Man would have given up, but since they had a reason to live they “never gave up” (McCarthy, 137). Both Ma and the Man express sadness and confusion in their chaotic surroundings, but they are able to cope with such difficulties because their children give them a sense that someday they will find true happiness. This is why it is easier to overcome times of hardships and obstacles when there is someone special keeping one from giving up.
In the novels Room by Emma Donoghue and The Road by Cormac McCarthy, it is evident that a grieving and hopeless parent like Ma or the Man must depend on their love for their child in order to overcome times of suffering and pain. Both parents rely on their child’s love to overcome the adversities of living in a new environment, commit their lives to protect their children and find ways to stay happy with their child.
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