Escaping Reality

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Arsyl Mae Palmejar1
October 17, 2011
Escaping Reality
The story “To Set Our House in Order” by Margaret Laurence is set during the Great Depression before the World War II. In that era, people suffered from poverty. The story tackles about the life of the narrator Vanessa who has moved in to the Grandmother’s MacLeod’s house. Vanessa’s mother is pregnant and her father is a doctor. Vanessa is not happy living with her Grandmother because she controls her family in terms of the way they move, speak and make decisions. Grandmother MacLeod’s bossiness causes conflict among the members of the family. She wants to keep the house in the same manner as in the past. The author uses different kinds of symbolism to show to the reader the lives of the characters, especially the way Grandmother MacLeod affects everyone around her. Margaret Laurence uses symbols such as the ivory pendant, the Grandmother’s house and birds to represents different kinds of characters in the story and how each one wants to escape the life of Grandmother MacLeod.

Grandmother MacLeod owns an ivory pendant. She wears it to present herself as an elegant and lovely lady. As a symbol, the ivory pendant gives the reader an idea of how she acts as a lady and how she feels living in a messy and poor house. During that time, the MacLeod family is suffering from the effects of the Great Depression. However, the Grandmother MacLeod is still acting as if she is rich like a queen. A proof of this is her desire to hire someone to do the household chores, despite the fact that it is the era of no money. But Ewen disagrees and instead tells his mother to get Edna, Beth’s sister. Unfortunately the Grandmother does not like this idea because she thinks that Edna is a bad influence Palmejar 2

and a threat to Vanessa’s personality. In addition, the ivory pendant represents her childhood as pretty and respectable young lady. The ivory pendant can also represent her fear of God. The color...
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