In Moo by Sally Clark, how does the author sway the reader's sympathies towards Moo in her characterizations of Moo's immediate family?
In Moo, Sally Clark enables the reader to be more sympathetic toward her title character in that the members of her immediate family are self-centered and/or challenged—socially, mentally, emotionally, or any combination of the three.
At the beginning, Harry (Moo's husband) is having Moo involuntarily committed to an insane asylum. When Harry stops paying the bill, they become suspicious, and finally check to see if Moo has family.
...I called Mrs. MacDowell and she said yes, indeed, she was your mother and they'd been looking for you for the last five years. They didn't look too hard, apparently...
When Moo and her sister, Sarah, speak about marriage, Moo knows that there is no love between her sister and Charles, though the eventuality of their wedding seems fairly certain to Moo—while almost an afterthought for Sarah.
He's a good man and he adores me...I will love him in time. When a man adores you, he makes it impossible to do otherwise.
Sarah is self-centered: what matters is that Charles adores her, not that she return his affections.
When Harry announces that George, the only son, has been killed in the war, the family is only casually concerned—lacking any real emotional depth. Mrs. MacDowell clearly lacks a strong intellect. She asks Harry if George had a vision before his death. Sarah is embarrassed, but her mother pushes on:
I hope he had a vision. When I die, I want to have one.
There are no signs of a shattered mother. But Mr. MacDowell has trouble gathering his thoughts at all. While one might think he is in shock, it is soon apparent when he is able to communicate coherently, that his mind has been moving ahead...will Harry return to his own family? When Harry hesitates, Mr. MacDowell pounces not only on the opportunity to invite him to stay with them, but also at the chance to adopt him on the spot—all the while having just lost his son, and knowing nothing of Harry:
Mr. Parker is staying here...We need another man in the place.
Needless to say, Mrs. MacDowell is unperturbed.
Both sisters denounce Harry as a loser after Moo returns home from her stay at the asylum. In Act One, scenes thirteen and fourteen, Sarah and Ditty respectively announce that they were sure Harry was wrong for Moo. Sarah observes:
I said stick with the good men and you can't go wrong.
(Interestingly, Charles is later as wobbly on his mental feet as Mr. MacDowell was.) Ditty notes:
I knew he was a rotter the moment I laid eyes on him. And of course, I stayed away from him.
This is completely untrue: Ditty flirts shamelessly with Harry right in front of Moo, asking how to use a gun—though since Moo is so handy with one, we might assume Ditty's lack of knowledge is feigned:
Now you hold the gun.
Oooooh it's so heavy...
And you—um—put your hand there. Now, don't pull on the trigger.
Ditty never stayed away, and at some point, Harry was good enough for her.
Without a caring and functional family behind her, we not only can sympathize with Moo, but also might see her as heroic: she sees Harry shoot for the first time and knows immediately that she will let nothing stop her from "getting him." True to her word, she spends the rest of her life chasing Harry. It never works out as she had hoped, but she loves him until she dies. She is less like her family and, surprisingly more like Harry..."wild"—knowing what she wants and doggedly pursuing it.