What does the novel "Wise Children" have to tell us about paternity and maternity?

Essay by Fidget23University, Bachelor'sA-, February 2006

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In the novel Wise Children by Angela Carter, two illegitimate twins (Dora and Nora) are cared for and raised by Grandma Chance, who more or less plays the role of their mother. Carter criticises the irresponsibility of fathers through her choice of narrator, Dora, whose father, Melchior denies the twins as his children and regards them as his nieces. His selfish and insensitive nature is evident as his eyes that "looked at us but did not see us" turn out to be Dora's "bitterest disappointment" of all her life. This shows how important a father is in the life of a child. On the other hand the role of women in society is praised as Carter's feminist views are clearly expressed through characters including Grandma Chance and Dora herself.

Melchior's inability to accept his illegitimate daughters enables Carter to criticise the attitudes that men have towards parenthood. Because of him, Dora and Nora grow up without the knowledge of what exactly a father is up until the age of seven.

Grandma Chance has to explain to them what a father's role is, which shows how women pick the pieces and try to put right the lives that men have shattered. Melchior's brother, Peregrine, is disgusted by his behaviour and Dora remembers that "when [their] father denied [them], Peregrine spread his arms as wide as wings and gathered up the orphan girls".

However Peregrine is perceived as the exception of the idea that fathers are irresponsible of their actions. He helps bring up Dora and Nora by giving them money and treats, and his carnivalesque attitude to life brings laughter, joy and happiness in the girls' lives. This perhaps shows that everyone needs to have a 'father figure'. But the role of "the best uncle in the world" is quite...