THE FIFTH CHILD by Doris Lessing
The Fifth Child is a novel which was written by the British writer Doris Lessing. It was published for the first time in the United Kingdom in 1988. Moreover, it was translated into a number of languages.
Harriet and David are a model couple.
Harriet waits for the fifth time is pregnant. However, her pregnancy will not be the same as those of previous times. Indeed, tiredness, anger and pain will be especially so daily.
Later the baby is born (Ben) if he is strangely large, is aggressive and causes the reject of other children of David and Harriet. Despite, his difference Harriet protects and love has its way. Gradually the family will "dissolve", each child will leave home, David will get less and less his home after work ...
Throughout his novel, Doris Lessing will we exposed a societal problem: the disability ( handicapped person ). The fear of difference.
The fifth Child by Doris Lessing-1998
In this novel there are two main characters: Harriet and David. The scene takes place in the 60s at an office party (place where the two persons met ).
Harriet is a person who's solidly built. She works in the sales departement of a firm and the other people see them as shy and reserved.
David has grey-blue eyes, a candid face and soft brown hair. He works in the same building that Harriet but in the architct sector. He is see by the other people as simple and slight.
In the text we can discover several common point between the main characters: each is shy; conservative; unfashionable and are a love at first sight. Moreover, they view of the "ordinary" as conservative, old-fashioned, timid, hard to please.
The elements which evoking life in the 60s are: noisy, pounding rhythm and the characteristics of "women". Indeed, concerned with clothes: so bizarre; full of colour then dramatic.
We can notice that Harriet and David knew the new life which is very dinamic. It's the beginning of the bands with music was Rock and Rolls.
The narrator use to introduce them as technical : The point of view of the couple "Both". Theysaw all the dancers with the face distorted in screams and grimaces. We can understand that the narrator use a technical of the cinema. The travelling to reveal the scene progressively. Doris Lessing, so the author stop on Harriet and David then zoom on the couple. Harriet and David despise the dancers.
Doris Lessing described Harriet with a personnality enough special. Indeed, "she seemed a girl merged with her surroundings" so it's a woman reserved. Moreover she was described as a solidly built ; as a bealthy young woman.
The narrator's tone is very ironic. For example Harriet was compared to dried grasses and easily forgotten.
Doris Lessing described David with serious grey-blue eyes, a candid face and soft brown hair. Furthermore, he seemed slightly younger man.
" Both had found out who the other was ": this quotation suggest that Harriet and David were bound to fall in love, that destiny is at work.
We learn concerning their previous experience : that David had a very love affair but it's was a bad experience "reluctantly". So, David have already knew a story with a girl.
Harriet, says "I don't like all this sleeping around, it's not for me"
In this paragraph, the story evolve bacause Harriet and David look, then to meet one of the other and finally decide to marry.
To my mind, the two characters were made for each other because they had several common point. Firstly, they met at a party, love at first side and they were different from the people around them...
Extract of this novel (link)
The fifth Child by Doris Lessing- 1998
The scene takes place in the dinning-room and the characters are: Harriet and David / Dorothy and Alice. They are talking about Ben while Harriet is giving Ben bottle. The main issue in this scene is the question prononced by Harriet about her son " What is he ?". So, the mother defines her own son as a thing.
Around the kitchen table:
In this scene everybody talking and looking at him Ben, that's why he is the main character.
Moreover, Ben is the center of all conversations because he drinks between 10 and 11 bottles whereas he has only two months.
The main question concerning him is "What is he ?". Indeed, he is concerning as a thing instead of a person. Ben appears like a beast. There is any answer to this question. David, Dorothy and Alice said nothing.
Words about Ben ( while he is having his bottle )
- emptied - supporting it with his two fists - body clenched and unclenched
Definition : " Neanderthal baby"= refer to prehistoric man. Indeed, Ben is very aggressive.
At the doctor's:
The doctor's first reaction when Harriet tells him Ben has got milk-infection is " A breast-fed baby shouldn't get infections"( he said). But Ben isn't breasfed unlike the other children. As a consequence, the doctor is surprised because isn't the style of Harriet.
When Harriet shows the doctor her bruised nipples this one keep the silence. For the first time he is confronted a problem beyond him.
The doctor thinks and says about Ben " Naughty baby ".
Question: Can you imagine his intimate thoughts ?
This baby is really like no other. His aggression are surprising. I think he's different and he never will be kind / gentle as his brothers and sisters. I don't understand his behavior. Moreover, how can a two months old baby, can be as strong.
The doctor's diagnosis concern Ben noting. He says "There's obviously nothing much wrong". So, for him Ben is normal and no sick.
The doctor didn't shocked by the fact that Harriet doesn't like the baby because he has already seen people who dislike to a child.
The extra-ordinary things does Ben do is : try to get himself on all fours.
Ben is qualified by his own mother of "nasty little brute".
Words showing that Harriet feels guilty
- insisted - steadily
Harriet said nothing but she was smiling unpleasantly and knew it.
In this passage Harriet doesn't appear as motherly, as she used to be all the other children and that's why the other don't understand her attitude. She is progressively going to be isolated. So, the reader discover in Harriet a woman helpless and discourage.
In the last part of the passage the atmosphere is tense but the joy is dominante. The atmosphere is happy, playing around.
The people's reaction to that new baby is the joy but too the impatience to meet the future baby. Whole family is very excite.
The last impression conveyed in the passage is that the child Paul doesn't the same baby. Moreover, Ben became the center of the family.
Extract of this novel (link)
The fifth child by Doris Lessing
In this extract, Harriet after introducing Ben in a special institute ( North of England ), she decides finally to visit him, see his "new life".
* Firstly, we are in an atmosphere a little oppressive when is in car: "grey wintry rain"
*Then, we discover the landscape, the atmosphere of the place which is bland and sad.
- "dark stone" - "grey drifting rain" -"the rain was now a cold deluge"
* But also how is the building or rather his description:
- "regular windows" - "three rows of them were barred"
- "hand-written card - "this oppressive building"
- "silent" - "the big door was shut to exclude her"
-"dark caverns of a corridor" -"smell of disinfectant
-"absolute silence" -"highthin screaming"
* Several action verbs are perceived, they allow text to be more alive.
For example: "she entered" / "she rang and waited" / "the door abruptly opened" / "saw" / "stared"/ "nothing happened" / "rang again"/ "returned to the corridor .
In this way, the author makes the text more lively and the reader discover the place without to grow weary.
* The characters or persons are also described. Indeed, the young girls who opens the door Harriet "wearing jerseys, cardigans, and a thick scarf" ; "curly yellow hait"; "blue ribbon" ; "tired"
* Harriet presented to the little girl " I'm Mrs Lovatt and I've come to see my son".
From my point of view this extract is essential because the reader becomes aware of the woman is Harriet. In spite of her reluctance to Ben we can detected that Harriet doesn't hate his own son in reality. She reveals to readers his maternal instinct.
To my mind she loves Ben because she comes to see. So, she takes interest him, she wants to see if he lives in good conditions.
Extract of this novel (link)
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