Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Diamond Age: Motherhood

Having it been somewhat hard to get through this book there have been quite a few things that have crept out of the pages and really gotten to me. One of those things is the portrayal of mothers in this book.

If I ignore Nell's mother for a minute since I hate her and I do not necessarily care how she is portrayed, I would like to look at Princess Nell's mother. Page 124 says this:

He took the babies back to the cottage and presented them to his wide, who swooned for joy. They lived happily together for some time, and whenever one of the babies cried, one of the parents would get up and comfort it. But one night father did not come home, because a storm had pushed his little red fishing boat far out to sea. One of the babies began to cry, and the mother got up to comfort it. But when the other began to cry as well, there was nothing she could do, and shortly the monster came calling.
When the fisherman returned home the next say, he found his wife's body lying beside that of the monster, and both of the babies unharmed. His grief was very great, and he began the difficult task of raising both the children.
Now, I am all for men raising babies, I think it's good for them to have the elbow deep in diaper experience that I feel mothers have no choice to go through. However, it bothers me that the mother cannot comfort two babies at the same time. I realize the man is hard at work and the mother is home taking care of the kids, two kids, who are apparently both very young although when they are older Harv is much bigger than Nell.... Anyways, she doesn't even try. And it bother me that the mother does not try to comfort the other baby, yes she gives up her life for her children but I feel like she just took the beating because she felt like she had no choice, she dies uselessly in my opinion. In this short story there is no time that the mother picked up the other baby in her other arm and attempted to comfort it, but the dad was able to raise them all on his own. 

I feel like Neal Stevenson goes out of his way to make mothers out to be awful. Like obviously no one can raise a child as well as Harv or the father. Every mother in this book is either mean or stupid. The only redeeming female character seems to be Miranda. And that is only because she cares about Nell and is trying to help her. Good thing she didn't have any kids though... Because apparently once you have kids you become an awful human being whole dates people who molest your children and burn them with cigarettes.


  1. I defiantly agree with you that mothers are portrayed poorly throughout the whole book. And just like you a little burst of anger spiked in me whenever Nell’s mother was brought up. I just wanted to reach into the book and grab her and shake her and tell her to grow up, be an adult and take care of and love your child!! While I am not a mother I could never imagine picking my different boyfriend every week over my own child. While I didn’t want to believe it, reading these parts in the book about Nells mother makes me realize that there are mother and FATHERS out there that treat their kids like this. But I have to disagree with you about the part on Princess Nell’s mother. When I read that passage I never thought the author was trying to make her mother look bad at all. It never said anywhere in the passage that she didn’t try to help both twins just that she couldn’t. So for all we know she could have tried her hardest and still was not able to stop both children from crying. In the end she sacrificed her life for the children’s. I feel like this passage shows what a good mother is like compared to bad mother like Nell’s mother. But after reading your depiction of the text I can see where you got the idea that the author was portraying Princess Nell’s mother in a bad way. I feel that you can look at the text in both ways but it’s hard to decide which way the author meant to choose.

  2. I'm intrigued by both of your arguments here. It's interesting to me that almost all mothers (except for the one we'll see at the end) are terrible or cause terrible events. Given the role of male caretakers in giving the primers to the girls, the novel seems to want to almost ignore the fact of mothering altogether. Partly, I would argue, this is a typical novelistic trope because if we have good mothers then we're less likely to have some deep conflict in growing up (think about how tv shows are about single dads).

  3. Melissa, I definitely agree with your argument. I felt the same way when I was reading this part of the text. It seems that Neal Stevenson wants to show the difference between male and female. Apparently, in his opinion, the race of the female is weaker and not as strong as the male. The mother could have easily nurtured both babies at the same time. It was the choice of Stevenson to show her in a weak light. I mean hey, right now I am watching two twin babies which I fed, changed and put to sleep. I hope there will be something surprising coming with the development of Nell's character that will change our way of thinking on how Stevenson is portraying women throughout the book so far. I believe that Nell will become a strong female character and through that we will feel better about this portion? I look forward to reading on.