This novel addresses the culturally changing views on the best practices in childcare. Martha Gaines grew up in a world that believed that children needed only to have their inherent needs met: they needed to be feed, kept clean, and looked after. They were to stay on a schedule for sleeping and activity. Henry House was raised by seven different women, each of whom was encouraged to withhold affection and to stress discipline and schedule. Most babies would leave to live with adoptive families after a year, but Henry spent his entire childhood in the practice house. Martha Gaines was a firm believer in the current trends in childcare and wholeheartedly resisted the coddling ways of Benjamin Spock. Spock was growing in popularity, however, and soon Martha’s ways were discarded and rejected.
After having devoted herself to raising Henry in the way she understood best, and then seeing his lack of regard for her, Martha began to question her child-raising techniques. She was especially bothered by a study in which baby monkeys preferred the comfort of a living mother to a prototype that met only its basic needs. Martha began to wonder if she had done wrong by Henry raising him the way she had. After being cared for by so many different, inconsistent “mothers,” Henry grew up manipulative and unable to trust women or his own feelings.
Perhaps because of his upbringing, Henry was hesitant to commit to a woman or to display his true emotions. Henry was adept at presenting a front that would please whoever happened to be with him at the moment. For Henry, getting girls and then women to do what he wanted was just a challenge—he was not interested in any of them on any deeper level.
Henry was expert at pleasing most women, but he was unwilling to reciprocate Martha’s devotion. It is ironic that the usually cold and indifferent Martha would finally pour her love...
(The entire section is 752 words.)