In what ways would you consider Beatrice to be inhuman in The Effect of Gamma Rays on the Main-in-the-Moon Marigolds?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The adjective "inhuman" is very strong, and it is important for the audience to remember what is behind Beatrice's behaviour, which is often incredibly damaging, to her children and those around her. She has had a very raw deal in life, and so much of her behaviour in the play and the way she treats her daughters in such a terrible way stems from the way that she has been hurt in the past. However, at the same time, even when this is taken into consideration, it becomes difficult to excuse the kind of actions and words that Beatrice uses to talk to her daughters. One of the key symbols of the play are the radioactive isotopes that Tillie becomes so fascinated by. These have a half life, but the half life becomes an important way in which Beatrice views her own life. Note this following speech:

I'm the original half-life. I've got one daughter with half a mind, the other with half a test tube, a house half-full of rabbit crap and half a corpse. That's a half-life, alright. Jesus, don't you hate the world, Matilda?

The insults and vitriol that emerge from Beatrice's mouth stem from the feeling that her life is characterised by unfulfilled potential, that she has only half a life. Of course, what is fascinating about this is the way that Tillie appropriates this symbol herself to capture the sense of excitement and journey of learning about science. Beatrice therefore does treat her children in a shameful way, but at the same time, it is important to remember what she herself has suffered and what she continues to suffer.

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