Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Andre Dubus - "The Fat Girl"

Louise, the main character, was part of a dysfunctional family and learned from an early age the fact that she needed to be thin in order to appear attractive to boys – a truth that her mother hammered into her subconscious from the time she was nine years old (Dubus 58).  Louise’s father seemed to approve of his daughter how she was, but Louise would not receive her mother’s love while still overweight.

Louise  defied her mother's wishes and snuck food into her mouth while she wasn't looking:
“Boys were as far away as five years, and she would go to her room and wait for nearly an hour until she knew her mother was no longer thinking of her, then she would creep into the kitchen and, listening to her mother talking on the phone, or her footsteps upstairs, she would open the bread box, the pantry, the jar of peanut butter. She would put the sandwich under her shirt and go outside or to the bathroom to eat it.” (59)

Louise finds refuge with her friend Carrie in college - they were both unhappy but for different reasons (60).  Carrie then helps Louise suffer her worst year ever as she dieted to go from 184 pounds to 115 pounds.  The reactions from Louise's family were to be expected - her mother was beyond thrilled, while her father was happy either way.  
 "Her father laughed and hugged her and said: 'But now there's less of you to love.' (61)
"...at the airport her mother cried and hugged her and said again and again: You're so beautiful." (62)
Richard, Louise's husband, became immensely dissatisfied with her when she began to put on too much weight during her pregnancy; Louise's mother was equally dissatisfied for different reasons.  Louise's reaction to her family was to keep eating what she wanted, first in hiding, then in front of them.  Louise was finally happy in a twisted sort of way when she was allowed to be who she was, no matter if she was now alone.
"She felt that somehow she had lost more than pounds of fat; that some time during her dieting she had lost herself too...She looked down at the earth far below, and it seemed to her that her soul, like her body aboard the plane, was in some rootless flight.  She neither knew its destination nor where it had departed from; it was on some passage she could not even define." (62)
"On most days she went about her routine of leisure with a sense of certainty about herself that came merely from not thinking.  But there were times, with her friends, or with Richard, or alone in the house, when she was suddenly assaulted by the feeling that  she had taken the wrong train and arrived at a place where no one knew her, and where she ought not to be." (63)
"She knows he will leave soon.  It has been in his eyes all summer...She goes to the bedroom and in the dark takes a bar of candy from her drawer.  Slowly she descends the stairs.  She knows Richard is waiting but she feels his departure so happily that, when she enters the living room, unwrapping the candy, she is surprised to see him standing there." (65)

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