Domains of the family

   As the book progresses I’m very interested in how each character is associated with different “domains” or “elements” in the book. Clearly these domains are important to the story, as the title of the book includes the environmental ones.

   The gender embodiment in the text is very interesting in that it is stereotypical in an eerily old-fashioned way; we don’t know when the book takes place, but clearly the husband feels he is responsible for building a home, protecting his wife and child, and “owning” them both. The wife does the laundry, the mothering, the cooking, and a lot of graphic bleeding associated with miscarriage (the way the male narrator describes it seems almost like an invasion of her privacy–he speaks about it very intimately, which conflicts with the fact that the two seem completely non-intimate). 

   To apply these gender roles to the placement of the characters in the evironment, the wife is almost always in the house, or in the “deep house”, and the husband is almost always outside. Bell might be examining how a man can feel exiled from the home in the ways that he is forced out of the domestic in the family relationship, or in the ways he is sent to do the hunting, the outdoor-building and maintenance. He is locked out of rooms in his “own” house. The anxiety resulting from this seems to cause his mutilation and half-burial of animals, a sort of assertion of his control over the outdoor environment, if not the indoors.

   To bring this to a semi-gross level, it is also possible that this outdoor exile is reflected in the wife’s miscarriages and the supposed failures of her body. The husband feels that despite his efforts, he cannot create or help maintain a baby within her: he is powerless, watching from the outside. Perhaps this frustration is the central one, and Bell is making the statement that man is always forced to be outside the realms of family and creation, and this is why the narrator is so troubled.


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