Barbara Wersba Diane Gersoni-Stavn - Essay

Diane Gersoni-Stavn

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Can a boy in a boy's book have a mother who isn't vapid? Yes, but usually only if she's cruelly domineering or lax in her maternal obligations. In Barbara Wersba's The Dream Watcher, for example, there are two important women. One is a poor, alcoholic spinster on welfare whose poetic allusions and fantasized stories of her glorious past on the stage inspire the terribly normal, average Albert Scully to appreciate his own capabilities and potential…. But, what about young Albert's mom, the really significant woman in his life? She is a castrator who constantly puts down her unsuccessful hard-drinking insurance man of a husband … while Wersba treats Mr. Scully sympathetically (he had always wanted to be a pilot but his wife steered him toward business), she has little patience with the wife's own frustrations. Why does Mrs. Scully daydream about being a celebrity? If she's emasculated her husband, as it's implied, what in her own background limited her ability to relate to people and led her to cope by restructuring her reality? These questions never even come to the fore in this book; boys see only the father as immediate victim, the son as probable, long-range victim, and the mother as vulture. (pp. 263-64)

Diane Gersoni-Stavn, "The Skirts in Fiction about Boys: A Maxi Mess," in Sexism and Youth, edited by Diane Gersoni-Stavn, R. R. Bowker Company, 1974, pp. 260-71.∗