Academic journal article Estudios Irlandeses - Journal of Irish Studies

Daughters on Hunger Strike: The Irish Mother-Daughter Resistance Plot in the Stories of Edna O'Brien, Mary Lavin, Eilis Ni Dhuibhne and Mary Leland

Academic journal article Estudios Irlandeses - Journal of Irish Studies

Daughters on Hunger Strike: The Irish Mother-Daughter Resistance Plot in the Stories of Edna O'Brien, Mary Lavin, Eilis Ni Dhuibhne and Mary Leland

Article excerpt

Abstract. This essay explores the embattled interactions between mothers and daughters in the stories by Edna O'Brien, Mary Lavin, Eilis Ni Dhuibhne and Mary Leland. This conflict involves an underlying distorted intimacy between women within a patriarchal Irish context. The daughter in the stories seeks to rebel against the 'choking love' of the tyrannical 'patriarchal mother' through a symbolic anorexia, in which the daughter rejects the mother's food or the food associated with the mother. The mother is also shown to feel ambivalent and resistant towards the daughter's attempt to break from her dependence upon the mother. The conflict and resistance between mothers and daughters in these stories can be evaluated against the framework of the patriarchal context in which women as mothers are silenced and made powerless in front of the 'Father,' and therefore, this resistance can be interpreted as a reaction to this patriarchal ideology and its framework in Irish society. The lost bond between older and younger women needs to be rediscovered and restored by a realisation of patriarchal ideology and furthermore, identification with female subjectivity. This identification between women seems to act as a source of redemption for women of different generations, which results in both liberating themselves from the patriarchal dogma.

Keywords. Anorexia, hunger, starving, revulsion for food, mother and daughter relationship, patriarchy, choking love, motherhood.

Resumen. El articulo explora las combativas interacciones entre madres e hijas en los relatos de Edna O'Brien, Mary Lavin, Eilis Ni Dhuibhne y Mary Leland. Dicho conflicto comporta una intimidad distorsionada entre mujeres en un contexto patriarcal irlandEs. En los relatos la hija intenta rebelarse ante el 'amor asfixiante' de la tiranica 'madre patriarcal' por medio de una anorexia simbolica, en la cual la hija rechaza la comida de la madre, o la comida asociada con la madre. Asimismo, la madre se muestra ambivalente y reticente ante los intentos de la hija de escapar de su dependencia. El conflicto y la resistencia entre madres e hijas en estos relatos se puede analizar en funcion del ambito patriarcal en el que las mujeres, en tanto que madres, son silenciadas y desprovistas de poder frente al 'Padre', por lo que dicha resistencia puede interpretarse como reaccion a esa ideologia patriarcal en el marco de la sociedad irlandesa. El lazo perdido entre mujeres jovenes y mayores debe ser redescubierto y restaurado con el reconocimiento de la existencia de una ideologia patriarcal y con la identificacion de una subjetividad femenina. Dicha identificacion entre mujeres parece actuar como fuente de redencion para mujeres de diferentes generaciones, conducente a que ambas se liberen del dogma patriarcal.

Palabras clave. Anorexia, hambre, pasar hambre, revulsion a la comida, relacion entre madre e hija, patriarcado, amor asfixiante, maternidad.

Introduction: A Lost Tradition

This essay aims to examine and evaluate the fictional representations in the stories by Edna O'Brien, Mary Lavin, Eilis Ni Dhuibhne and Mary Leland of embattled relationships between mothers and daughters. It attempts to decode this conflicting mother-daughter knot against a background which defines and confines the social norms and roles for women existing in an Irish patriarchal context. The motif dealing with aspects of conflicts and alienation in these stories is signified by a revulsion towards food. In most cases, daughters are shown as symbolically anorexic or resistant to their 'devouring' mothers within the context of a 'matriphobic' culture. It is important to demonstrate how contemporary Irish female writers, who have emerged since the second wave of feminism in the 1960s both with a focus on women's issues as well as with a feminist awareness, explore the symbolism of eating disorders such as anorexia or revulsion for food in their short stories. …

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