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A daughter, in characteristic teenage fashion, is wary of her mother and yet wants her acceptance. The distance that grows between them is portrayed several times in intensely lyrical images. For example, after her breasts develop, she says, “Between my mother and me now were the tears I had cried, and I gathered up some stones and banked them in so that they formed a small pond” of thick black liquid in which only invertebrates can live. She and her mother now watch each other cautiously, making sure to shower each other with artificial words of love.

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The story moves from lyric image to lyric image, each scene embodying the problematic intimacy between them. The narrator describes herself and her mother on her mother’s bed in a room lit by candles. Their shadows dance in the flickering candlelight, but a distance remains between them.

Many of the story’s images illustrate not only the growing sense of confidence and ability that the daughter feels for herself, but also her longing for the days when she was closer to and more reliant on her mother. In one scene, the daughter turns to her mother for sympathy, but when her mother reaches out to rub her head, the daughter steps aside, roars with self-confidence, but then lets out a self-pitying whine. She is unable to completely accept or reject her mother’s intimacy.

In another scene, the mother transforms herself into a lizardlike creature that crawls on its belly, and she instructs the daughter to do the same herself. Elsewhere, the daughter transforms herself into a lamblike creature. When the mother notes how cross she looks, the daughter builds a trap for her mother by building a house over a hole and inviting her mother to inspect it. When the mother walks in and out without falling, the daughter burns the home and fills in the hole.

The story returns to the image of the pond of invertebrates the narrator created with her tears. She sees herself as big now, but her mother as three times her size. She and her mother build houses on opposite sides of this pond, expressing both their connection and the distance between them. The daughter not only cries for the lack of closeness between them but also wears herself out with anger at her mother.

At the end, the mother packs the girl’s things in a bag and sends her on a voyage, apparently to Great Britain for schooling. The physical separation between mother and daughter in fact...

(The entire section contains 659 words.)

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