Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Sixpence-Katherine Mansfield

This story had such an impact on me as it made me recall my childhood of when I to was mistreated in someway for being a naughty child. I was so fascinated and envious of the reaction in Mr Bendall as he had regretted so much about the beating he'd done. This is because I for one had thought every parent would fully put their resolve and utter most consideration when deciding to beat their child since it leaves very big emotional/physical effects on the child. 
It also made me think that these parent had no idea what they were doing or how to parent and I realized this is the case for most, in fact all parents. Parenting is like drawing a dog with a pen- you have one shot to create something and even though the dog turns out to have one eye and five legs because of you, it cannot be undone. You can read books on how to parent your child, seek advice but coincidentally your child will be brought up by how the parent wants them to be. The fact that every parent, (including Mr/Mrs Bendall) were beginners in parenting did arouse some sympathy towards them, especially Mrs Bendall who seemed to put a lot thought into whether to beat her child or not- but is later perceived as an easily influenced, unopinioned woman towards the end as she nags to her husband of how she cannot "control" her child.

I also thought the contrast between Mrs Spencer's children and Mrs Bendall's was foreshadowing what would or might have become of Dicky when he is whipped or if he was continually disciplined in such manner. seeking obedience from fear- I think is a theme in this story and a way of Katherine showing us the unhealthy nature of whipping as it cripples the child physically and mentally. I would thingk in terms of 'crippling'  Mrs Spencer's children are the crippled and Dicky crippling. Mrs Spencer's children are crippled in a way mentally where they are restricted in their actions out of fear of doing the wrong things and getting beaten. We are shown evidence of this as we see how they try to minimize their noise when playing in the presence of adults "... never would have known that there was a child in the house" out of fear of a beating. I contrast Dicky is portrayed as the full embodiment of a boisterous, vibrant child and the only difference shown between the boys is the fact that Dicky wasn't beaten unlike Mrs Spencer's boys. This one differences which manipulate the child's actions and personality emphasized the importance and destructive nature of a beating. In Dicky's very first beating we are shown the effects of using violence to induce obedience-humiliation, pain, and fear that is installed in him as he stutters over his words,being unable to speak his mind due to fear. Further and further Dicky closes his mind/opinions from his parents- first whispering “Must I?” he whispered", barely voicing out his opinions then not saying them at all-“Nothing the matter, little chap, is there?” said Edward... “No-o, Daddy,” came from Dicky"-scared if his true opinions may cause further conflict,anger, and  another possible beating, Dicky dosn't voice his opinions and instead lies.
In adult eyes Mrs Spencer's children are seen as "perfect little models... Quieter, better-behaved little boys." however to me they seemed deprived of childhood and freedom. They did not seem to be able to play or have fun rather they chose the right thing over the fun thing e.g. playing quietly in the house as to not disturb the adults. Ultimately we see the little boys being bound by their fear and pain from the beatings that they dare not make any noise; so much that they are thought to be non-existent in the house by the adults. If the children had been taught without the inducing of fear, both parents and child could have enjoyed themselves in their presence.  I thought on this further, and concluded that children should have the special privilege of having the capability of being irresponsible/ make mistakes without harsh consequence (most of the time/more than adults at least) because they will be unable to do so once they become adults. Adults must realize there are responsibilities and standards which are needed to be kept in order to be seen as a proper adult. This ultimately influences us to choose the 'right decisions' (most of the time) without encouragement or beatings since the consequences of breaking these standards are severe e.g. jail, unemployment, unable to enter university, etc. 
I was also shocked at the difference of culture between the European and Asian ways of punishing your child and also the opinions of my European class mates compared to mine. In Asia it is not considered so shocking to beat your child- in fact a mere beating with a slipper would hardly be considered as serious punishment. However the fact that Mrs/Mr Bendall had never hit Dicky, how she had fretted over it, and how she did not punish Dicky herself seemed very irresponsible, with no resolve to punish him seriously herself. Mr and Mrs Bendall made me think that they weren't good at parenting and had only decided to beat Dicky because of their own frustrations/annoyance at him/tiredness rather than for Dickys sake- making him into a happy/responsible child; which is selfish. 
What was more surprising was my class mates and my teachers reactions to this beating which they claimed to be just awful and terrible- which is how the beating is portrayed in the story. As they talked about the beating they would make a cringing or rather pitying/sympathetic face/tone which is normal-( I too feel sorry for Dicky's pain) but when I dismissed the overpowering adjectives that made the beating all the more so horrible, I was annoyed at how they thought this act so so terrible when in fact, compared to an Asian upbringing which is much worse, humiliating and strict. The more I thought about it the more I felt they/and Katherine's view/portrayal to be overly sensitive and exaggerating the pain of Dicky. This is because in my point of view it seemed that they were accusing cruelty about such minor punishments (compared to Asian punishments) that are far worse or 'scarring'. This lead me to believe most people in my class room hadn't experienced that kind of hardship and so for them this kind of punishment was severe which was understandable. I also thought it was unfair how they could so easily say that Dicky's punishment were hardships and that it were cruel- because there are much much more cruel things that Asian people go through without complaints and without being given sympathy so I wanted to say to Katherine Mansfield to toughen up a bit on her views. haha.
However I really liked this story as it had quite complex meanings to it that seemed very true, especially the effects on a child from corporal punishment. I think she portrayed the feelings and consequences of the beating very accurately/realistically which was all the more easier to emphasis with (with Dicky or Mr/Mrs Bundall, depending on if you are a child, father or mother). I love how it deals with current issues since it sends out a powerful message to the readers and parents. 

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