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A jest of god 2

A Jest of God

We were strangers from the beginning

tormented by our difference

which did not exist.

(Betsy Warland)

An important ingredient inherent in a successful mother-daughter

relationship is balance. Like the scales of justice, maintaining equilibrium

requires work. The special bond between mother and daughter is delicate and

unlike any other relationship due to expectations of performance on behalf of

both women. The female psyche is, characteristically, particular: each woman

having a certain regiment making themselves unique. Ideals and behavior learned,

possibly inherited, from others are two of many things which carve an

individual's personality. It is these similarities and differences which often

cause conflicts between mother and daughter. In A Jest of God, the relationship

between Rachel and her mother is strained due to unspoken expectations that each

had of the other. Stemming from poor communication, a host of differences were

assumed to exist between the two, when in fact their struggle originated in

their sameness.

The largest weapon which spear-headed the communication war between Rachel

and her mother was the generation gap; coming from different eras, the pair

assumed they had nothing in common. In Rachel's eyes her mother was a pristine,

saintly woman who maintained high moral values for herself and her family.

Therefore, being a good person and making the right decisions was never

questionable to Rachel, as this was how her mother expected her to behave.

Rachel listened numerous times to her mother comment on how "peculiar" her

behavior looked, and spoke of anyone else she observed doing the same. Although

this annoyed Rachel about her mother, she adopted similar paranoia tendencies,

speculating how her behavior with Nick, a summer beau, looked to anyone who

could be watching or noticing. Irritated by her mother's attitude, Rachel

excused it on the pretense that her views reflected the past times in which she

lived. However, Rachel had neither the patience nor the desire to speak out

against her mother for fear of stirring trouble between them. The irony in

Rachel's decision is that their relationship needed just what she was so

desperately trying to avoid.

By turning her back on the communication problem between herself and her

mother, Rachel wanted to believe that the problem was inherent in the

misunderstanding each had of the other. Underneath her shell, Rachel was coming

to terms with what was really true of the gap between herself and her mother:

their difference lay in her want to not be similar. Both were single: Rachel

unmarried and her mother a widow. Through her fling with Nick, Rachel wanted to

express her desires to be independent from her mother, and have an adult

relationship with another human being. Another similarity between the two women

was in their propensity to be stubborn and secretive, having opinions they did

not speak of but eluded to. This stubbornness was evident in terms of

religious exploration as both were curious about faith. Rachel was more

aggressive in her curiosity as evidenced in her visit the Tabernacle, however

kept it a secret knowing her mother speculated about what good people saw in

such activity. Yet another similarity both mother and daughter share was in

their satisfaction at living in a small town. Following the death of her father,

neither Rachel nor her mother were anxious to change their living pattern.

Rachel was not blind to the similarities she had with her mother, but attempted

to change herself in order to be different.

Like a teenager's last rebellious actions before entering adulthood,

Rachel's actions during her last months in Manawaka symbolized the final fight

to be different from her mother. Struggling to maintain a casual relationship

with a man her mother would disapprove of, Rachel was forced to sneak around

behind her mother's back. Rachel's mother seemingly had no trouble speaking her

mind. Rachel tried to maintain her image as a proper, rule-abiding school

teacher, and refused to speak to her principal about a troubling issue for fear

he would lose respect for her. When attending the Tabernacle, Rachel spoke in

tongues and left not knowing what she revealed of herself, only that her mother

would surely disapprove of what she had done. Making a public spectacle of

herself was a fear Rachel shared with her mother, however the experience was

liberating for her because she knew the news would disturb her mother. These

outward actions by Rachel were demonstrative of her want to finish her spiritual

growth, which was stunted by an overbearing mother, and her own fear of being

the same way.

Rachel remained a child well into her adult life. This was evident in

the way she spoke to herself, analyzing, and scrutinizing her own actions. The

narrative tone was that of a motherly voice, likely evidence of the fear for

what her mother would say, and reflective of who she was growing into.

Rebelling against such growth is a natural progression for women because a

strong sense of rivalry exists between mothers and daughters. The latter, eager

to carve their own path, become distressed when they realize they are unable to

choose something new for themselves because it has already been branded into

them from their mothers. Such behavior is ritualistic and shows friendly

competition between the wise and the wiser, as the former strive to prove

themselves independent. It is an attempt by daughters to prove their ingenuity,

and gain acceptance and approval from their mothers. Rachel realized this was

occurring simultaneously with the reconciliation of her inner self, took charge

of her independence and moved herself and her mother to the West Coast, at the

end of the book.

Gaining independence was a great triumph in Rachel's life, and coincided

with the first building block in an attempt to bridge the communication gap

between herself and her mother. Taking charge of her life was something Rachel

never felt compelled to do prior to the growing experience of her inner-self.

As important as branching out on her own was, she was never before able to do

this because she allowed herself to live under her mother's protective wing.

Although seeming to despise her mother for the qualities she unadmittingly

possessed herself, Rachel was merely running from the truth, and failing to

communicate only helped to reinforce this.

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