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After she has seen the birth, Esther tells Buddy that she thought it was wonderful,...

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pashti | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted September 2, 2013 at 6:27 PM via web

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After she has seen the birth, Esther tells Buddy that she thought it was wonderful, that she "could see something like that everyday."  Yet, she keeps her real response to herself. What does this suggest about her and the relationship between them?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 3, 2013 at 12:47 AM (Answer #1)

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It is very telling that Esther has to keep her real response to herself. It represents how women of the time period felt compelled to subjugate their real thoughts and their real understanding to themselves.  This condition shows how women were socially conditioned to say what men want to hear.  For example, when Buddy asks Esther if she has "ever seen a man," and exposes himself to her, Esther is forced to describe what she sees in terms opposite of what she actually experiences:

Then he just stood there in front of me and I kept on staring at him. The only thing I could think of was turkey neck and turkey gizzards and I felt very depressed.

She cannot say the truth, which is that Buddy's penis looks like "turkey neck and turkey gizzards."  Esther feels constricted in speaking. Her depression lies in this silencing of voice, a seismic gap between what is expected and what is experienced.  

For Esther, the lack of a response to Buddy about the truth she feels regarding child birth reflects that she is constricted in their relationship.  She is silenced.  She cannot render the responses that she is supposed to give, and is forced to keep on "staring at him" in a figurative and, sometimes, literal sense.  The inability to speak her mind about child birth reflects the social condition of women that has been internalized in their relationship.  Esther understands that she is supposed to give the responses he wants to hear.  In the end, he does not want a dialogue.  Buddy simply wants to have his own voice accentuated.  This is a reflection of their relationship, something that is not reciprocal.  When Buddy learns of Esther's institutionalization, he questions her as to who would now want her. Such a statement reflects his nature as desiring a one- sided relationship.  That side is his.  He wishes for Esther's voice to simply dissolve into his own.  It is this construction of the intimate dynamics between men and women of the time period that makes Esther's inability to speak her mind and articulate her voice a significant part of the challenges she finds in relationships with men.

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