In the essay, “Can We Love Our Battering Fathers? ” Helen H. Gordon creates a vivid image of despair in her family. This is a reflective essay that allows the reader to experience what she went through growing up. Her father is the main cause of despair which is shown throughout his behaviour towards his family, especially her mother. She creates the feeling of haunting despair through the use of diction, allusions, and foreshadowing.
By reading the title, we know that the essay is about a person who grew up with an abusive father. To determine the extent, diction is used to convey a special tone through the appropriate use of words. In Helen Gordon’s “Can We Love Our Battering Fathers? ”, not only is the reader aware of the tone, but can almost feel exactly what the author is going through. Through the choice of words and amplification, the author is able to increase the significance and understandability.
For example, she states “What my sister and I have not been able to reconcile, is Dad’s treatment of Mother—gentle, loving Mother, who lived for her family and adored her husband, the quintessential traditional woman, domestic and submissive even to the point of martyrdom. ” (5). The author extends this sentence to describe her mother by using many meaningful words to emphasize her sweet and innocent character. This is a direct contrast as to how the author views her father.
She mentions, “Although, I still carry emotional scars from years of living in fear-of thumps against the floor or screams in the night-I cannot simply hate my father. ”(2). Notice the words “scars”, “fear”, “thumps”, and “screams” to describe her father, but she does not necessarily hate him. This device of emphasis is illustrated throughout the essay. With the choice of words and amplification, the reader is able to understand that author’s unforgettable and hopeless experience. Allusion connects the content of a text with a larger world.
Allusion calls to mind the ideas and emotions associated with a well-known event or published book. In the introductory paragraph, Gordon’s makes a direct reference to Shakespeare’s popular novel, King Lear. She compares herself to King Lear’s daughter Cordelia when she quotes, “I think of Cordelia, daughter of King Lear, saying to him, ‘I love you according to my bond. ’”(1) This single quote summarizes in detail, the haunting despair of her life long relationship with her father. Gordon also makes an indirect reference to Robert Stevenson’s book Strange Case of Dr.
Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886), where she explains her father becoming a completely different and evil person when he consumes alcohol. However, when he is sober, he is described as a caring and loving father. The Dr. Jekyll character is apparent when Gordon quotes, “Mother blamed alcohol for her marital trouble. ‘When he’s sober,’ she often said, ‘he’s a fine man’” (6). The Mr. Hyde character is apparent when Gordon writes, “But when he drank even so much as a glass of beer, his face would become contorted, his eyes red-rimmed, his speech slurred and snarling. (6). This allusion is a great representation of how the father’s personality changes from one extreme to the other. Both allusions create the haunting despair because they demonstrate that Gordon does not necessarily hate her father, but has mixed feelings towards him. She also uses foreshadowing to add dramatic tension to her essay to convey information that helps readers understand what comes later. Throughout the essay, she demonstrates foreshadowing by organizing paragraphs in such a manner that create anticipation for the reader.
The foreshadowing begins in the third paragraph when she quotes, “I remembered with poignant pain the time he had broken (accidently) beloved vase of my mother’s. ”(3). The vase symbolizes her mother’s character being fragile, beautiful, colourful, and of sweet scent. So, once the vase was shattered, it was a sign of things to come. As Gordon continues her essay, each paragraph gets worse and worse, which is aligned with the extent of her father’s abuse towards her mother. By paragraph nine, “The police came and took Mother to the hospital, where she was treated for broken ribs and a broken nose. (9). This effective use of foreshadowing allowed the reader to ease into this terrifying event. There are a wide variety of literary devices and devices of emphasis to add interest and dramatic effect to an essay. However, we can all agree that the choice of diction will always play a major role. For this particular essay, the diction, allusions, and foreshadowing were a clever choice for Gordon to portray the dark, scary, and hopeless reflection in her essay.
GordonHelen H. “Can We Love Our Battering Fathers? ”Eyeing Mind