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The theme of entrapment is a dominant theme in Margaret Laurence's "A Bird in the House". This is the theme that the author uses to shape most of his characters in the literary work. Vanessa Macleod is a protagonist in this story growing as the environment around her suggests. Margaret takes a Vanessa into an observational status where she would monitor activities around her. This would in turn affect her tremendously as she grows up. At the beginning, Vanessa is only twelve and the story tells of her growth till marriage with Chris. Margaret suggests to the reader that a person is changed significantly from his or her associations with the surrounding. As the story glides on the reader sees the many forms that Vanessa assumes in a bid to attain personal freedom. It is a quest for personal freedom although no character in the work attains it. This whole nature affects the way in which Vanessa grows.
Remembrance Day is the story that starts at the beginning of the Margaret literary work. Vanessa is a teenager being influenced so much by hormonal changes in the body. En route to the church she observes the nature in which her father is in. According to her she felt pity for him although she did not really understand why this should be the case. As she was taught heaven is a beautiful place, probably, hence people should enjoy in the passing of their loved one. This is not the case and the imagination makes her engage her father into a conversation; "I wondered what he believed in. I did not have any real idea what it might be". It is the nature of inquisitiveness of teenager children. Her father answers some questions that she asks him but they are not satisfactory, another demonstration of curiosity.
It is easily seen how observable Vanessa is; "He was frowning deeply and I could see the pulse in his temple â€¦ When he raised his head, he did not look uplifted or anything like that. He merely looked tired". This is the observation status that Margaret puts her protagonist in the play. This characteristic will be evident all through the discussion because it is the property that makes Vanessa make choices. The past affects the future as brought out in this play. They are written as reflections or discussions in the play. At the time when Vanessa discussed religion with her father, she would not understand his answer. Later he passed away from a short illness and while she was passing through her father's belongings she came across a love letter and picture of a young French woman pp 107. Five years down the line she had grieved her father missing the companionship but is ignited by a single discovery that brings her father's memories with nostalgia.
It is at this moment that she understands that the past still lingers in the present. Imagination also plays an important role in Vanessa's life and journey to growth. She was not going to participate in the activities of Remembrance Day owing to the fact that she despised military men. She did not understand the meaning of the day not until she had a brief epiphany of what death really is. He came to understand the meaning of this day by imagining what his dad felt while he watched his brother fade away in his death. Moreover the day too was important to her grandmother and by imagination she understood the pain of a mother. It was real when she lost her father. Vanessa learned the importance of the day when she found the love letter. The reflections of the past bring about moments of truth when the departed dwelt among their loved ones. Again she learns from the past and how the past affects the future. It is her journey towards maturity.
It is also important to point out the relationships that Vanessa has. Some are distant without direct associations, while some are observational and others are interactive. In addition there is that solitary part which is marked by realizations and reflection, devoid of relationship. There are plenty of examples of these four categories of relationship. In Social Learning Theory of psychology studies, there are references of child growth in cognitive abilities through relationship hence the name social. In this breathe a great deal of learning that brings about maturity in Vanessa is through relationship. Some lessons are learned earlier while others are learned immediately the relationship hits a rock bottom. The latter is the most common in Margaret Laurence book. Vanessa greatly learns from consequences rather than having the intelligence to postulate in the future the results of certain actions.
As seen with the relationship with Chris, Vanessa harbors important information that is crucial to her boyfriend; "Chris was twenty-one. The distance between them was still too great. For years she had wanted to be older so she might talk with him, but now she felt unready pp. 140". Day in day out she tries to figure out how to communicate with Chris. All is late when Chris is admitted to a mental hospital. From this she learns the necessity to be open when she regrets having kept secret this information from Chris. She blames herself of Chris deterioration in health. It is the communication between partners that keeps relationship work out, a good lesson she learns. Grandfather Conner is a perfectionist but they had a distant relationship with Vanessa. There was no close contact between the two. However, through observation Vanessa was able to attain knowledge on the importance of being perfect. It is entrapment in discussion but learning from a distance. She understands this during the sale of the brick house; "She wanted to tell the new owners of the Brick house to trim their hedges, to repaint the window frames, to pay heed to repairs. She had feared and fought, yet he proclaimed himself in her veins pp. 191."
Another aspect that contributes very much to her growth is the escape she has to reality. She exhibits resistance to a number of things in the story. At a tender age she attended the church just as her parents required. However at the time she was already curious of what she wanted to do with her life. As a result it is evident that she is always in conflict with her relatives. The interesting part is how she dealt with the resistance. Instead of showing it clearly, she actually blocked everything out. It is an attempt to independence. In particular during Sunday school lessons, she conceived stories in her mind with her as the main characters but without meaning; "I was prepared, for the question was the same each week. I rarely listened in Sunday school, finding it more entertaining to compose in my head stories of spectacular heroism in which I figured as a central character, so I never knew what the text had been.". However, they were very important in passing time.
In one way Vanessa knew what was important to him. She was interested only with certain things but ignorant of unimportant and uninteresting things. This way she was able to lean on a sided kind of growth and maturity. This form of resistance does not stop there. After her father's death they move to the brick house where they lived with her grandfather. Occasionally she would get busy writing exaggerated adventure stories as a means to fulfill her thirst for personal freedom;" I wanted only to be by myself with no one else around". She was so insecure to live on her own since the brick house represents strength where she may turn to. Even when Nanuk presents her with a relationship offer, she is still reluctant to be with him.
In general Vanessa's journey to maturity is an amalgamated package of life experiences with those who she came in contact with. Her relationship with her father made her indecisive in many occasions. Her father was indecisive as seen from the conversation he has with her daughter Vanessa. When asked about his thoughts about heaven, he gives thoughtless answers which affect Vanessa quite a bit. Down the line in her life, Vanessa meets with Chris. She is in a state of making a decision that is supposed to affect her life. However, she is unable to make the final decision whether to talk to Chris or not. Consequently, Chris is admitted in a mental institution. Her grandfather, Conner is a firm person and a perfectionist. He used to talk with a firm voice, raised all the time in a bid to make everything perfect. On the contrary he was able to analyze situations and make firm decisions about them. When Nanuk wanted to date Vanessa, he would constantly tell her that he was not fit for her. He stood with this decision till the end.
Clearly Vanessa learned from her grandfather. When they left the brick house for new owners, she gave instructions on how to maintain the windows and hedges perfectly as they were. She reacted in a manner that her grandfather would. At another instant while talking to her brother, she engages in a conversation on how to name her dog. At one point she realizes her grandfather's voice echoes in her voice. When they moved to the brick house after the death of her father, Vanessa met her aunties who were soft spoken and humble. They had a loving character just like her mother. She immediately took their side and became humble, predictable and loving. In fact the story symbolizes her as a birch of logs in the basement. She is also similar to her mother. In the work it was evident that after a quarrel her mother and aunt would go in the kitchen and speak in whispers. In actual sense they would worry perpetually. This trait was adopted by Vanessa who would go about her worrying ways whispering in inaudible undertones.
Her grandfather also influences her in a number of ways. While she dated Nanuk, Conner would constantly resent him since according to him he was not to be trusted. In one way these were pointers thrown in here and there by grandpa. Although she loved him, she was taught not to follow love only in a person but to search for better qualities. They turned her into a self reflecting person who would ask rhetoric questions within, just to have better understanding of relationships. It was evident with Chris. In conclusion her journey to adulthood is one that is marked by influences through relationships between her and her immediate people who would throw pointers here and there for her. They nurtured her to what she became in adulthood.
Laurence Margaret. A Bird in the House. Berlin: McClelland & Stewart,2010.