Channeling Mrs. Kearney
While reading the short story “A Mother” in Dubliners, I started to recognize the actions of Mrs. Kearney and thought about where I may be seeing a similar story in my life. I thought about my own struggles, and couldn’t really think of anything that may have sparked familiarity, so I decided to look at the analyses of other individuals online.
What struck me while reading through various comments was how divided people were on the subject of Mrs. Kearney’s actions. However, as I looked deeper, the reasoning became clear, and so did my understanding of the story. Most of the comments posted by men seemed to favor the idea that Mrs. Kearney was the most awful woman they’d ever encountered in literature, and many of the women that commented seemed to view her actions as justified. Why the divide?
Using these comments, I was able to trace exactly why this story felt familiar. My wife Sydney is currently in her final year of the Biochemistry program here at BYU and she is hoping to become a surgeon. Sydney is probably the most intelligent person I have ever met, and this mostly comes down to her work ethic. She may lack the natural intelligence that some people are gifted to have, but she works so hard to understand her subjects that she often outclasses her peers using sheer willpower alone. Even with all of this determination and intelligence, she STILL faces opposition from her male-dominated program and several of the professors in her major. She has had professors openly discriminate against her during classes, stating that women should be mothers and not doctors. She has had several occasions where professors and inexperienced students will speak to her as if she was an idiot, just because they couldn’t fathom the idea that a woman may know what she is talking about.
In order to survive, she has to fight everybody at every step of the way. She already struggles to keep her GPA up in difficult major, but then has to put up with instructors and classmates who want her to fail. Mrs. Kearney’s problems are very similar, because of the status that women had at this time. She is never taken seriously, and all of the men seem to think that they can dupe her and her daughter into a performance without pay, because they know she can’t do anything about it. She is described as, “haggard with rage” after being repeatedly snubbed by Mr. Holohan and Mr. O’Madden Burke, but some people would rather see her as a villain instead of a woman trying to get what she is owed.
In the modern world, a man who stands up for himself and refuses to back down is seen as bold and gallant, whereas women who speak up to the injustices they face are labeled as bitchy and annoying, and are hated and feared.
A Mother has helped me understand the difficulties that my wife and other women face almost daily, and I hope that I can start to do something to help by allowing women to channel their Mrs. Kearney without judging them for it.