Frances Piper: The Devil’s Advocate?
In Fall On Your Knees, Ann-Marie MacDonald presents a vivid and life-like character in Frances Piper. Frances Piper is one of the four Piper girls, and she is different from the rest of them. From her early childhood, Frances is a bold and naughty girl who is always getting herself into trouble. She has a great mischievous streak which troubles her father, James Piper, immensely. James Piper himself has a demon-like personality at various times throughout the novel, some of which he collects from his father in his early childhood. In a similar fashion to Frances’s father’s past, the reader can visualize Frances getting accustomed to her father’s personality and see her become a demon herself, trying to get back at her father. In a way, Frances can be seen as the Devil’s advocate. However, how can a young and sweet girl carry such a negative impact to her family, especially when she is the heart of this novel? Although Frances can be visualized as the Devil’s advocate by her actions, various characters, and the loss of her innocence through her father, Frances is a sweet, young, and seldom frightened girl who is trying to live a life that her grandmother, mother, and sisters have not – a life filled with new adventures, and life risking actions, all while maintaining a good heart.
The life that could never be attained by Materia is achieved by Frances to some extent. Frances is always looking for adventures and risk. Moreover, Frances Piper’s change in nature can be seen the day of the funeral of Materia, her mother. She cannot control the laughter that escapes her while the funeral is taking place. However, she is amazed when James and Mercedes, her sister, think that she is crying. In that moment of her life, Frances learns something “that will allow her to survive and function for the rest of her life. She finds out that one thing can look like another . . . Some would simply say Frances learned how to lie” (142). This moment is a transition in Frances’s life because she realizes that she is now on her own and will have to live her life in order to survive. After she is raped by her father, James, she has been instilled with his demon inside of her and this can be the reason for the transition in her life. She has lost her innocence at a very young age and cannot go back to her father for comfort, leaving her on her own to look after her youngest sister, Lily Piper. Although she is a very mischievous girl at a young age, always teasing Lily with scary stories and not minding anyone’s feelings, it is not because the Devil has taken a place inside of her. However, as Dina Georgis states, Frances “although naughtier, reproduces Materia’s bizarre brilliance and her insightful, yet self-destructive behaviour” (Georgis 224). Frances is reconstructing the way her mother lived, with excitement and behaviour that is not fit for society. Moreover, Georgis goes on saying “Frances re-enacts the trauma of her life, often with more scandal and perhaps with more pleasure” (Georgis 224). Therefore, taking all these considerations into mind, it can be seen that Frances is not acting out what the Devil desires; in fact, she is acting out the life that her mother could never have, because of all the restrictions imposed upon her. An example of Frances re-enacting her mother’s life out is when she secretly talks to Lily in bed late at night: “Frances uses half-remembered phrases and tells fragments of old stories, weaving them with pieces of songs, filling in the many gaps with her own made-up words that approximate the sounds of Mumma’s Old Country tongue” (243). These instances prove that Frances is really not portraying her devilish attributes as a young girl; rather, she is merely trying to live out her mother’s life, and in a way, getting back at her father for all the years that he abused Materia.
As Frances gets older, the reader can see that she has started to become...