Masterpieces of Women's Literature Memories of a Catholic Girlhood Analysis - Essay

Mary McCarthy

Masterpieces of Women's Literature Memories of a Catholic Girlhood Analysis

Memories of a Catholic Girlhood is especially adept at bringing into question the authenticity or level of truth of any autobiography. This not only has opened a whole new debate in literary theory but also has brought into question how gender relates to writing about the self. Many critics are still debating whether women tend to write about themselves in relation to others, as opposed to men, who seem to write about themselves as individuals in direct contrast to others. For example, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Benjamin Franklin write about themselves as individuals as well as about their personal achievements and philosophies. In contrast, Virginia Woolf and Maxine Hong Kingston define themselves in relation to others, especially their mothers.

McCarthy, too, defines herself by merging herself with the other people in her narratives. Her brothers’ names virtually disappear because they become “we,” the orphans. Most tellingly, McCarthy’s observations of her grandmother Preston become internal in McCarthy as she grows—from her concern with her own appearance to her sensuous love of apricots.

Sensuality and sexuality are, in fact, the most prevalent subjects in McCarthy’s essays. As a child living with Myers and Margaret, McCarthy notes the restriction or absence of sensual pleasures such as food and toys. It is her imagination that makes up for these losses, as she and Kevin fantasize about escaping from this difficult...

(The entire section is 574 words.)