Page 41 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 47

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STRAUS / IDEOLOGICAL AGENDAS AND IMAGES OF WOMEN
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empathy towards the situation and the mo ther — who was, in
Portnoy’s Complaint,
merely the target o f blame. Moreover, as
he deals with the death o f his mother, he allows some insight
into the constraint resultant from images o f both mothers and
sons. While Zuckerman certainly does not act as if he u n d e r ­
stands this insight, his sudden realization, after experiencing
much failure and his m o ther’s death, that “his mo ther had been
the only one he loved” does reveal one cause o f his failed re ­
lationships in his own en trapm en t in the image o f son. Similarly,
a certain amoun t o f empathy can be seen in what he describes
as his m o ther’s complicity with, if not acceptance of, her im­
prisonment in her stereotyped roles: “her paren ts’ daugh ter,
her sister’s sister, he r husband ’s wife, her ch ildren’s mother.
What else was there? She would be the first to say ‘noth ing .’ ”
This insight o f women as
nothing
o ther than their patriarchally
created image and role — is all the more poignant because it
is, in the novel at least, o f no use to mo ther o r son.
BRONER’S APPROACH
E. M. B roner self-consciously writes as a Jewish feminist who
sets out to create new ways o f writing and new images o f women
in opposition to the traditional narratives and negative images
o f writers such as Roth. Her eminence as a feminist writer is
the result o f her innovative and provocative depiction o f aspects
o f womanhood that have received little previous emphasis. Her
project is to show that Selma Zuckerman’s “nothing” is a m an’s
point o f view, an effect o f patriarchal tradition. H er ambition
is to displace that tradition with the details o f women’s lives
which this tradition suppresses or denies. Despite her conscious
intent, however, B roner’s images o f women have surprisingly
much in common with those o f a more blatantly traditional writ­
er like Roth.
In
Her Mothers
B roner, following Virginia Woolf, attempts
to fill a cultural gap, by having her protagonist Beatrix Palmer,
a female Jewish writer, try to create a tradition for women’s
writing by “thinking back th rough he r mothers.” B roner p re ­
sents Beatrix’s search for mothers th rough a non-linear collage,
in which mo therhood emerges as a function and a quality, not
limited to the biological linkage between mothers and their chil­
d ren . The n a rra to r ’s advice to Beatrix to “choose carefully, for