In Mary Lawson’s Crow Lake, Kate Morrison is left emotionally stunted after a series of events leave her disappointed and grieving. When Kate is only seven, her parents are killed in a tragic car accident. Luckily for Kate, she could find condolence in her older brother Matt and the pond, a bond shared between the two. Kate idolizes Matt so it crushes her when he impregnates their neighbour and can no longer continue with his education. Kate sees this as a huge disappointment. She’s afraid of love and emotion due to her unresolved conflicts in the past. Kate has been left incapable of empathy in fear of becoming close to anyone again.
From a young age Kate has been unfamiliar with others’ and her own emotions. The Morrison household preferred to keep drama to a minimum. Kate refers to this as the Eleventh Commandment:
Understatement was the rule in our house. Emotions, even positive ones, were kept firmly under control. It was the Eleventh Commandment, carved on its very own tablet of stone and presented specifically to those of Presbyterian persuasion: Thou Shall Not Emote (p. 9). Being a stranger to emotion, Kate finds it difficult to identify and feel what another person is feeling. Exposure to emotional outbursts makes Kate anxious as she cannot find a proper way to deal with others due to her inability to fully understand and empathize. When Kate is approached by one of her students after class she assumes it is because of reasons related to her studies. “‘I guess I’m not the sympathetic type’ ” she admits, “‘[s]ympathy and empathy are linked, after all’ ” (p. 236). The student is struggling to find words when Kate suggests that “ ’ [i]f it isn’t connected to your work, then I may not be the best person...’ ” (p. 237). When her student confirms it’s about her studies Kate begins with a generic authoritive response to Fiona’s problem, encouraging her to go on with her work rather than leave university but when she is faced with the raw emotion of...
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