Canadian literary culture is considered to be rich and famous around the world; and in spite of the fact that some works were sold in a few copies only, their significance and their necessity is quite noticeable nowadays. As for Me and My House is “certainly one of the most distinctive ever to come out of Canada” (Stouck 27).
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Its author, Sinclair Ross, made a wonderful attempt to describe social, natural, and even spiritual forces, which were able to destroy marriage. The work is based on the notes, which were made by Mrs. Bentley in her diary, so, Mrs. Bentley performs two functions in the story: as one of the major characters and as the narrator of the story.
The peculiarity of this story is ambiguous approach of Mrs. Bentley to her life, her relations with her husband, and to her role in the small town.
While telling the story, its narrator, Mrs. Bentley, cannot be regarded as a reliable and honest source of information because of three reasons: first, she is unfair and dishonest to herself, second, she tries to hide the lack of love in her life by means of needs for some material issues, and finally, the majority of her actions are aimed at clearing up or proving something but not at achieving certain satisfaction and enjoyment.
Each literary work has its own significance for many people: for the author, critics, readers, and even for some other writers. As for Me and My House is the story that combines several rather important for this life issues: the desire to be a hero for the others and for yourself, the ability to maintain family relations safe and sound, passion to new people of the opposite sex, fleetingness of personal desires, and failure of own dreams because of personal laziness. Ross’s novel under consideration is a unique collection of everyday life of the family with its own demands, needs, and opportunities.
The problems of the relations between the main characters, the Bentleys, are grounded on their own inner conflicts with each other. During their lives, they have to make certain decision, have to sacrifice own dreams, and have to think over their dreams, taking into consideration current conditions and abilities. All these numerous sacrifices have a considerable impact on Mr. and Mrs. Bentley’s relations with other people and with each other. “…just two people in the house.
They become sensitive to each other a sullen or irritable mood always communicates itself” (Ross 19). The beginning of the story provides the reader with an opportunity to guess that Mrs. Bentley is not satisfied with her role of the minister’s wife. In spite of the fact that she has already left too many things and people in her life, she still regrets about them and always has something to blame on or just take offence at her husband.
As a rule, in order to present a sensitive and captivating story, the narrator has to correspond to certain standards. This correspondence should help the narrator to attract reader’s attention, to convince the reader about his/her personal opportunities and thoughts, and to make the reader believe in everything that is told by the narrator.
In the book As for Me and My House, Mrs. Bentley performs the role of the narrator, however, her own uncertainty and discontent of the world she lives in make the reader and me personally doubt in her sincerity and honesty. Yes, her living conditions and earnings are good enough in order to eat, drink, and wear everything she wants.
But still, I cannot believe that she really enjoys such opportunities. “The town seems huddle together, cowering on a high, tiny perch, afraid to move less it topple into the wind… It’s the disordered house and the bare walls that depress me” (Ross 4). She tries to persuade everyone around that her position and her life are really great.
Can it be possible that all her thoughts and words in the diary are really true? She is so upset with everything that around her, but still she does not have enough powers and enough desire to leave everything up or at least change something. If she is so unfair and so dishonest to people around, whether she can be truly honest to herself and to us, her readers. Such variety of questions makes me doubt about her honesty, her reliability, and even her intentions.
One of the cherished dreams of each woman is to be loved and love in return. In the story, the main character is deprived of the opportunity to enjoy her emotions and the feelings of her husband to herself. Mrs. Bentley admits that it is better “for a while to walk my spirits back” (Ross 36).
She makes numerous attempts to run far away from her own house in order to find some support and some care, but the town she lives in cannot provide her with such a chance, this is why she has nothing to do but come back home and continue her daily routines.
This woman has so many thoughts, doubts, and tears inside, and, at the same time, she lives so close to her chosen man, and he does notice nothing. Maybe, the major point still lies in Mrs. Bentley’s attitude to people around her, in Mrs. Bentley’s dishonesty to these people, and in Mrs. Bentley inability to represent her discontent in a proper way.
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These inabilities of a woman to represent her wishes and demands may negatively reflect on her disabilities to introduce the material to other people as a narrator. This very point may serve as one more reason to doubt in narrator’s honesty while telling this story.
Of course, everybody lies; but these lies should be perfectly covered, so that a person can hardly guess about false information. In the story, the reader comprehends from the very beginning how crucial the role of the narrator is; and almost from the very beginning, unreliability of this narrator is observed.
The last point that tells a lot about the nature of the narrator and her abilities to describe the events is all about irony that is so perfectly used in the story. Friendship that happens between Mrs. Bentley and Judith is a good example of how irony influences the perception of the story. “I think I’m going to like Judith” (Ross 16) – the narrator cannot even guess how captivating the development of the events could be.
First of all, Mr. Bentley was attracted by Judith, and Mrs. Bentley was able to catch this honey couple, and secondly, Judith was the woman, who left her child to the Bentleys before her death, and this way, she helped to realize this family’s cherished dream. I cannot believe that Mrs. Bentley has positive attitude to Judith all the time: her desire to discover something wrong about this person makes her forget about personal life and concentrate more on Judith’s life and preferences.
However, Mrs. Bentley does not make a hint on such goals and continue to admire Judith style of life. On my opinion, the character of Mrs. Bentley may be regarded in two different ways. On the one realistic way, the actions and thought of Mrs. Bentley are rather negative and dishonest to other characters and to the reader.
On the other symbolic way, Mrs. Bentley looks differently and even a bit pity. She may seem stupid, corrupt, and confused. These qualities can easily make her judgments wrong and unfair. And if her judgments are wrong, she cannot be a reliable and honest narrator, because inner doubts and uncertainty confuse the narrator and make her weak in the eyes of the reader.
In general, As for Me and My House is the story about relations and the ability to trust people around. Mrs. Bentley serves as a good example of a person, who faces many challenges while judging people because of own uncertainty and fears. Telling the truth, it is a bit useless to criticize Mrs. Bentley style of writing and its content, because it is just a diary, the reader can read aloud.
There are no concrete rules, which prove that the writer has to present reliable facts. It is a god chance to analyze the condition of the main character, her emotions, and attitude to different situations and different people. This story helps to notice the weaknesses of the woman and learn on her mistakes in order to make own life better and more successful.
Ross, Sinclair and Kroetsch, Robert. As for Me and My House. Toronto, Ontario: McClelland & Stewart Ltd, 2008. Print.
Stouck, David. Sinclair Ross’s As for Me and My House: Five Decades of Criticism. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991. Print.