A domestic dilemma Essay


A domestic dilemma

A domestic dilemma is a short story by Carson McCullers which revolves around the family of Martin. All the episodes surround the character Emily who is wife to Martin Meadow and of course mother to the young boy Andy and his sister Marianne. The present behavior of alcoholism generates a theme of irresponsible motherhood is facilitated by the family’s shift to New York where the husband is transferred by the company he is working with. Emily experiences boredom resulting in depression and loneliness when separated from the usual friends and family members of the small southern town. She then opts for alcohol to cub this feeling.

Martin is caught up in a situation where he has to hide all the misbehaviors caused by Emily’s alcoholism from the two children whom he is fearing that all these may stick to the minds of the young ones never to forget them in the future and as a result impact negatively in their the entire paper, I am going to explore Martin’s character, how he struggles to be both the mother and the father of the family through his acts of compassion, and also Emily’s alcoholism and its effect on the family.

How Martin is “feminized” in the story

Some day-to-day household duties such as cooking, shopping, washing; clothes, houses, dishes, and taking care of the children are taken to be feminine amongst some ethnic groups (Lindsey) However, Martin is seen to perform these duties in his family after the shift to New York. He is seen to be a very hardworking husband who tries to do everything to ensure that his children and wife are satisfied. We see him in a hurry when the work is over to get back home to know the wellbeing of his family. “On Thursday, Martin Meadow left the office early enough to make the first express bus home…” (McCullers 100). Martin presents himself as a very responsible parent and a strict disciplinarian, a role which is supposed to be played by a female parent in a family set up.

He prepares food for the family, ensures that the children grow up morally by trying to conceal the shameful acts of their mother when she is drunk. He regularly avoids the wife from meeting the children when she is a drunkard. “She lurched out the door but Martin caught her by the arm.’ I don’t want the children to see you in this condition. Be reasonable’…” (McCullers 97) Martin tells Emily. Emily, as a female parent and a mother, was the one who was supposed to carry bout these roles. However, McCullers decides to put Martin this way so that he can show how feminine Martin was,

Despite the challenges and the dilemmas Martin is subjected to, of compassion and distress from the wife’s alcoholism he chooses to remain both a caring and an understanding father and husband.”… Martin views his children’s faces as ‘radiant as flower petal’…” (McCullers 103) he demonstrates his love to the children by playing jokes with them, kissing and teasing them when he is away from the job. To his wife, he demonstrates his love by calming her and tries to comfort her when she is distressed and calm her to avoid displays of anger. (McCullers 101) Martin also expresses his emotional desires to Emily as a sign of the love he has for her. Martin watched Emily as she slept and his “old anger vanished…” (McCullers 104)

The act of employing a maid to look after the children is a clear demonstration of the love that Martin has for his children and his caring nature. He understands that the wife will not manage to perform the household chores as she used to perform while in Alabama due to the frustrations she displays in the current environment. Martin wants to ensure that his family remains a happy one and hopes for success in the future.

Ways in which Emily’s addiction impacts her relationship with Martin and her children

Emily has constantly engaged in alcohol consumption hoping that it will deter her from the loneliness and boredom she is experiencing in New York as opposed to the joy and happiness she was used to while in Alabama. Where she met friends and family members regularly.  Instead, she becomes an addict and is caught up in a situation where she cannot leave it at all. Consequently, this results in a negative impact on her two children and her husband.

Emily’s addiction leads her husband to experience a feeling of hatred towards her due to the immorality she is displaying to the children. This feeling frustrates him to an extent that his emotional instability is witnessed by his co-workers in the office. Martin also suffered moments of rebellion against his fate. He experiences low self-esteem, especially when at the job when he suspects that his secretary might have known what he is passing through and she pitied him whenever they encounter each other. The members of the office gossiped about his family while they meet in the office in his absence (McCullers 78) which also disturbed him greatly.

To the children, on the other hand, they developed a feeling of fear for their mother and whenever she is around, they feel insecure. The children also turn away from the mother and she claims that her husband has made them turn against her little did she know that she is the cause of all that.’…listen to my Andy… you won’t listen to any lies your father tells you…see you have turned my child against me…” (McCullers 104) to sum up, Emily’s addiction brings about the division or other separation in Martin’s family at large.

Causes of Emily’s addiction

For one to become an addict it takes a bit of sometime of doing the same thing once and again. (Schepp et al)  For Emily, it is not far away from this fact. When her husband is away for work, she decides to engage in alcohol taking to keep away the boredom she is experiencing in her new residence. She does this day in day out hiding it from Martin until when she accidentally drops little Marianne after bathing her when she is naked and she is hurt. She swears never again to touch liquor. However, this was all in vain due to addiction since some weeks after she goes back to her habit.

How addiction affects Emily’s motherhood

A bad mother is a mother who does not show adequate concern about the welfare of her children. She doesn’t care about their safety and does not provide enough feeding to the children or may fail to feed them at all. A bad mother usually got no time to spend with her children. Whenever she talks to her children, she just issues threats to them and condemns them (Karen). From the analysis of a bad mother, it is honest to conclude that addiction made Emily a bad mother.

Earlier in Alabama, we are told that Martin’s family was a happy one. After the shift to New York, things grew worse when Emily becomes an alcoholic. She begins to accuse the husband of turning the children against her and threatens the children not to listen to what the father tells them. The children also begin to fear her due to her alcoholism and they cling to their father. “Andy edged close to his father and touched his legs, ‘Daddy’, he cried” (McCullers 104)

Works Cited

Carson McCullers. A Domestic Dilemma

Lindsey, Linda L. Gender roles: A sociological perspective. Routledge, 2015.

 Park, Sihyun, and Karen G. Schepp. “A systematic review of research on children of alcoholics: Their inherent resilience and vulnerability.” Journal of Child and Family Studies 24.5 (2015): 1222-1231.

Swift, Karen. Manufacturing ‘Bad Mothers’. University of Toronto Press, 2018.