In I Am The Messenger, how does Ed come to terms with his family?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Ed has three siblings—two sisters and a brother—as well as a recently widowed mother. To better understand the family, it helps to have some knowledge of the area in which they live:

My whole family grew up in the far north of town, which is kind of like everyone’s dirty...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Ed has three siblings—two sisters and a brother—as well as a recently widowed mother. To better understand the family, it helps to have some knowledge of the area in which they live:

My whole family grew up in the far north of town, which is kind of like everyone’s dirty secret. There are plenty of teenage pregnancies there, a plethora of shithead fathers who are unemployed, and mothers like mine who smoke, drink, and go out in public wearing Ugg boots. The home I grew up in was an absolute dump, but I stuck around until my brother, Tommy, finished school and got into university.

Ed’s family is understood to be typical of the area. His father was a “lonely, kind, quiet, hard-drinking deadbeat,” a furniture deliverer, who died about six months before the story begins. His sisters, Leigh and Katherine, moved away from home young: Katherine because she got pregnant and married the man, while Leigh just left. Tommy, his younger brother, went to university and is “on his way to becoming a lawyer.” It would be easy for Ed to feel jealous of his brother’s prospects, but he genuinely wishes him well. Instead, his biggest gripe is with his mother.

Ed’s mother berates him constantly, swearing at him and insulting him. She yells at him for forgetting to deliver a table to her home, only to replace said table with one that Tommy got for her; she comforts him by way of saying “Ohhh, why don’t you have a bloody cry, Ed.” As the only one of his siblings who stuck around, he is hurt, but he doesn’t attempt to do anything.

Finally, one of the cards leads him to a restaurant in which his mother is going on a date with a man. Angry and betrayed, he shows up at her front porch later that night, only to be turned away. Ed thinks to himself:

I know full well that out of all of her offspring, I’m the only one this woman won’t invite into the house in this situation. If my sisters were here, she’d already be making coffee. If it was Tommy, she’d be asking him how university’s treating him, offering him a Coke or a piece of cake.

Yet, with me, Ed Kennedy, every bit as much one of her kids as the others, she steps past and refuses friendliness, let alone an invitation to come in. Just once, I’d like her to be even the slightest bit affable.

Ed rallies to ask his mother why she hates him so much, to which she replies that it’s because he reminds her of his father. After a time, he asks again why she hates him when he’s the one who’s there for her.

“Yes, you’re here—and that’s exactly it!” She holds her arms out. “Look at this dump. The house, the town, everything.” The voice is dark. “And your father—he promised me that one day we’d leave this place. He said we’d just pack up and go, and look where we are, Ed. We’re still here. I’m still here. You’re here, and just like your old man, you’re all promise, Ed, and no results. You”—she points at me with venom—”you could be as good as any of them. As good as Tommy, even. . . . But you’re still here and you’ll still be here in fifty years.” She sounds so cold. “And you’ll have achieved nothing.”

Eventually, she delivers her ultimate message: “Believe it or not—it takes a lot of love to hate you like this.”

This scene is a pivotal point because it represents a colossal shift in viewpoint toward both of his parents. Ed understands that his mother is deeply flawed, and that her expressions of dislike are her own way to get him to become someone. At the same time, he must recognize that her view of his father is accurate. He thought that his father was a “gentleman” who deserved more: “so kind, and generous, and gentle.” But he had broken his promises to his mother many times and was a deadbeat drunk. Ed walks away from this scene slightly broken, but on his way to healing.

Later, at Christmas, it seems as though little has changed with his mother: she insults him once more for arriving last and leaving first. However, as Ed leaves, she comes after him to wish him a merry Christmas. At this point, Ed delivers his own message to her:

“It’s the person, Ma, not the place. If you left here, you’d have been the same anywhere else.” It’s truth enough, but I can’t stop now. “If I ever leave this place”—I swallow—”I’ll make sure I’m better here first.”

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team