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Child Neglect in Texts and Movies

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7 November 2016

Living through neglect as a child does not pave a perfect path to adulthood. It can leave the child feeling as if she have nothing and no one. She may be forced prematurely to live independently and provide for herself. She may feel worthless as she has been shunned by the people who are meant to love her the most. The fourteen year old girl in Audre Lorde’s poem “Hanging Fire” and Matilda in the film Matilda both experience different forms of child neglect from parental figures. They are both in different situations that affect them both in different ways that shape their outlook on life and their character.

As a child or adolescent, having the constant feeling that she must advocate for herself if she wants to get anything in life plays a large role in her being forced into an independent life before she is ready. In the short poem that barely touches 200 words, there is a very strong message that is not difficult to receive. “And momma’s in the bedroom with the door closed.” is repeated three times throughout the poem and everything in between hints to the fact that this fourteen year old girl is not getting what she needs from her mother. She knows that she must start living independently as it is obvious her mother is unavailable at this time in her life. In the second section of the poem it says “There is nothing I want to do and too much that has to be done”. This suggests that she feels she needs to do the tasks that her mother should be doing when all she wants to do is be a teenager. Another line states “Nobody stops to think about my side of it”. This could possibly mean that everyone she knows or cares about is too focused on other things to worry about her. Similar to “Hanging Fire” Matilda feels as if no one can take a few seconds out of her day to worry about her. She knew that she had to start taking care of herself and become independent if she wanted to live a happy life. “Whatever she needed in the world, she had to get herself”. She had this realization at a very young age. By the time she was two-years-old she had learned how to take care of herself. By the age of four she had read every magazine in the house and had started making walking trips alone to the city library to read more as this was the only pleasant thing she had in her life. At six-years-old she told her father she wanted to go to school. For most children it is a preference to stay home with her family but for Matilda she longed for a friend or someone to love her.

For a child coming home everyday to the cold shoulder from her mother or father has a noticeable impact on her own self confidence and self worth. “Hanging Fire” demonstrates the worthless feeling of this fourteen-year-old. The areas that demonstrate this are in all three sections of the poem. “What if I die before the morning comes” “Suppose I die before graduation” and “Will I live long enough to grow up” are all quotes that show evidence that the girl could very possibly be depressed or suicidal. She has many thoughts about dying but is scared to miss out on something to come in the future. Suicidal thoughts could relate to her relationship with her mother or the fact that she is not happy or confident with herself and her body. The line “And my skin has betrayed me” could imply that she has acne, that she finds she is not attractive or that she is ashamed at how her skin appears. “Why do I have to be the one wearing braces” could also be an implication that she believes that braces are unattractive. She wishes that it could be someone else with the braces because they are not helping with her self confidence in any way. The feeling that her mother might not want her could influence her to think that if she is not good enough for her own mother she is not good enough for anyone. She is telling herself that she is not worthy of love from anyone. In comparison, Matilda’s father is the one who tells her she is not worthy of his love or love from the Wormwood family. Quotes from the film suggest that he wants nothing to do with his daughter. He calls her names such as “wiseacre, twit, and a lying little earwig”. One of his most famous lines that triggers Matilda to rebel against her father is “I’m smart you’re dumb, I’m big you're small, I’m right you’re wrong, and there's nothing you can do about it”. As a six-year-old child it is easy for Matilda to look past the fact that her father is verbally abusing her. She is still kind towards him



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