Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Angel In The House (1993) – The Story

The insidious notions of a woman’s place in society were subtly ingrained in Jonatha Brooke through her mother’s acquiescence to the concept that a woman/wife was expected to, above all, please and serve her husband. The “Angel In The House” is the ideal woman applauded in a poem by Coventry Patmore. The endeavor to “kill” the Angel, in turn, derives from Virginia Woolf’s struggle to overcome the cultural and self-imposed repression which women writers of her day faced in revealing the feminine essence of their being. Woolf undertook to slay the Angel with the lethal swath of uninhibited expression.

Brooke recounts with fragile melancholy, reveries of shame and chagrin that linger amidst pensive arpeggios of piano and acoustic guitar, and sighs of weeping cello. In deference to Brooke’s abreaction, Jennifer Kimball lends only a modicum of shadowy harmonies. Growing up, Brooke saw the Angel exemplified in her mother, who accepted her place in the home with resignation. The only way she knew how to change her circumstances and exert control over her life was by influencing her surroundings; taking up paltry pastimes; remaining attractive. Brooke suspects that her mother quelled her desires, but on occasion, would succumb in sporadic re-awakenings. But indenturing herself to a man meant she was tethered to his ambitions; she never bettered her lot in life, never achieved the upward social mobility she secretly coveted. Finally, in no longer placing ahead of herself the husband to whom she had devoted most of her life, she suffered the fate of which the Angel warned—abandonment. Administered with the anodyne of a stunning chord transition, Jonatha is dismayed at how interminable the Angel’s influence proved to be, disappointed that she cannot overcome its artifice in her own life: “I thought I was by myself . . . Even in my wildest heart, I cannot kill The Angel In The House.” She realizes that her mother, channeling the voice of the Angel, passed these values on to her daughters. In trying to maintain the status quo by placating their men, the women in Brooke’s family negated the progress for which feminists such as Woolf had fought; they are once again left to start from scratch, once again vulnerable to the precarious possibility that their lives could tumble into disarray: “We’re back to the wheel, back to fire / onto the high wire.”

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  • 2 comments:

    Imani said...

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

    Nancy

    http://pianonotes.info

    The Seventh Stranger said...

    Thank you for reading and for the kind comments. : ) This blog was an important outlet for me, but I don't intend to update it anymore, at least for now.