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Family and Love in “The Lover”

Most parents claim that they do not play favorites when it comes to their children. However, there are some parents who admit that as much as they do not want to, they favor one child over the rest. In Marguerite Duras’ “The Lover”, this is the case. The mother of the narrator favors her eldest child – referred by the narrator as her ‘Elder Brother. ’ Readers wonder why the mother loves the son more than the other children. For one, she calls him ‘my child’ and refers to the other two ‘the younger ones.

’ (Duras 60). Despite the elder brother’s imperfections such as stealing from the houseboys in order to go and smoke opium, stealing from their mother when she was dying, rummaging in her closets, gambling, selling his sister to some customers at a bar, stealing from his brother, trying to rape their household help Do (Duras 76), he was still the apple of his mother’s eye. In fact, the mother ‘never talked about that one. She never mentioned the rummages in closets to anyone.

She treated the fact that she was his mother as if it were a crime. She kept it hidden. ’ Not only that, according to their mother, if the elder brother wanted to, ‘he could have been the cleverest of the three. The most artistic. The most astute. And he was the one who’d loved his mother most. The one who’d loved his mother most. The one, in short, who’d understand her best. ’ (Duras 79). This created a strain in the family. The narrator loved her mother, but at the same time she hated her for this.

“I think I wrote about our love for our mother, but I don’t know if I wrote about how we hated her too, or about our love for one another, and our terrible hatred too, in that common family history of ruin and death which was ours whatever happened. ” (Duras 25). A common theme binding all human beings is ‘sibling rivalry. ’ There is jealousy and competition between and among siblings. This is human nature. A sibling sometimes feel that their parents favor one sibling over him. Sometimes, there are siblings who are so different that they cannot understand one another, no matter how hard they try.

A justification of this statement is the adage “You cannot choose the family you are born into. ” Thus explains why there are more people who treat their friends their family as opposed to their biological ones. The main theme of Duras’ “The Lover” is the relationship of the nameless narrator and the Chinese businessman who is 17 years her senior. However, this paper is discussing ‘sibling rivalry’ and love in the family, I would like to point out the incident when these two themes intertwined. That is when the narrator introduced the Chinese businessman to her family.

”My brothers will never say a word to him, it’s as if he were invisible to them, as if for them he weren’t solid enough to be perceived, seen or heard. This is because he adores me, but it’s taken for granted. The way my elder treats my lover, not speaking to him, ignoring him, stems from such absolute conviction it acts as a model. When my family’s there, I’m never supposed to address a single word to him. Except, yes, except to give him a message. ” (Duras 51). Another popular contemporary adage is that we date someone who reminds us of our fathers and mothers.

It is common courtesy to introduce whoever you are dating to your family. Contemporary men and women will be bale to relate to this scene in “The Lover. ” It is also important to note that there are still some people who believe that their brothers and sisters are too good for anybody. It is harder for them to give the thumbs up to the people their siblings are seeing. However, in the novel, it is the strained relationship among the siblings that affect the interaction among the brothers and the narrator’s lover.

As for the relationship between the mother and the narrator, the cliche ‘Like mother, like daughter’ applies. The narrator admitted to bracket her two brothers together, the same way their mother did. “She always talked in an insulting way about their strength (Duras 57) Finally, the scene that readers can most empathize with is the one with the two brothers when they were younger. “We’re still very small. Battles break out regularly between my brothers, for no apparent reason except the classic one by which the elder brother says to the younger, Clear out, you’re in the way.

And straightway lashes out. They fight without a word, all you can hear is their breathing, their groans, the hollow thud of the blows. My mother accompanies this sense, like all others, with an opera of shrieks. ” (Duras 59) When two of any male mammals are in one place (example: dogs and lions), there is the competition for the title ‘the alpha male. ’ Incidentally, the same can be said to siblings, especially if there is little gap. In the story, the elder brother is only a year older than the younger brother. Naturally, they will always compete with one another.

In fact, there is also a part in the story where the brothers were fighting over who gets the larger piece of meat. But there are also good parts in the story. For one, the narrator and her younger brother danced while they were at the Fountain after having dinner with her family and her lover. She couldn’t dance with her elder brother. She had no intention to. According to her, there was always nervousness between them, as if her elder brother was only afraid of one person, and that is she. Also, while the narrator was writing this story, her mother and her brothers were all dead.

Readers can hint that she was really close to her younger brother. Even the narrator wondered why she missed him when they didn’t even talk that much. They exchanged letters once in a while but that was about it. Toward the latter part of the story, when she was riding the ferry, she had a vision of her younger brother walking aboard with a woman. Turned out she was only imagining it. The mother, being present while her children were growing up, must have been aware of the way her eldest child bullied the younger ones. That didn’t stop her to ‘die between Do and him she called her child.

’ (Duras 30) Clearly, in her eyes, the elder brother was neither black sheep nor prodigal son. She absolutely loved him. In fact, the majority of the will she left for all her children went to him. The elder brother proved his love and affection toward his mother when he wept after her death. (Duras 77). ”Never a hello, never a good evening, a Happy New Year. Never a thank you. Never any talk. Never any need to talk. Everything always silent, distant. It’s a family of stone, petrified so deeply it’s impenetrable. Every day we try to kill one another, to kill.

Not only do we not talk to one another, we don’t even look at one another. When you’re being looked at, you can’t look. The word conversation is banished. We’re united in a fundamental shame at having to live. It’s here we are at the heart of our common fate, the fact that all three of us are our mother’s children. ” (Duras 54-55. ) This is how the narrator describes her relationship with her brothers. It is pessimistic but real. There are some families who can relate to the narrator and her three siblings. Some readers turn their attention to the narrator’s point of view closely.

Some scholars claim that the storytelling of the narrator appears to be detached. When she talked of her mother and her brothers, it seemed as if she was hostile towards them. A part of her probably is but there are still some parts in the novella that prove the narrator still cares about her mother and her brothers and vice versa. For one, she dressed like her mother. Her mother also defended her when she became the subject of gossip at her boarding school. Baz Luhrman’s song “Everybody’s Free To Use Sunscreen” has these lines, “Get to know your parents, you never know when they’ll be gone for good.

Be nice to your siblings; they are the best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future. ” In the story, the younger brother died first. Then the mother followed. According to the narrator, the death of her youngest son was too hard for their manic-depressive mother to bear. Here, she proved that despite her annoyance with her elder brother, she was still there for him. Today’s contemporary readers can say that “The Lover” is similar to modern works such as Jodi Picoult’s “My Sister’s Keeper.

” Because of a disease in their family, the relationship among three siblings is affected. More or less, this, like in “The Lover” affects their interaction with one another. There is a feeling of annoyance toward a sibling which they cannot help but not feel. It’s normal for children to be in sibling rivalries when they are younger. Take Bart and Lisa Simpson for example. Children will be children. But children also grow up to be mature individuals who learn that their friends will eventually leave but their siblings are there to stay.

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