Julia Darling's The Dress: Deteriorating Family Relationships

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The Dress” by Julia Darling is a short story about the deteriorating relationship between particularly the two sisters Flora and Rachel, but also their relationship to their mother. A certain dress is the pivotal point of the dispute that ends up having serious consequences. In the following analysis and interpretation I will unravel the tangled threads of the complicated affair by giving a characterization of the mother, elucidating the relationship between the two sisters, and giving an account of the composition of “The Dress” and its effects. In addition to this, I will touch on the symbolism and the themes of the short story. The mother of the two mature sisters is forty years old, and it is her birthday. Already on the first page, where Rachel finds out that Flora has taken her dress, the reader gets the impression that the mother is less capable of handling conflicts domestically than on her job: “... and Rachel knew that she would have to be pleasant, to forget about her stolen dress, wear something else, and smile [...] for a moment Rachel imagined her sitting opposite a distraught client in a cream-couloured room, pushing a box of pink tissues across a coffee table.”1 The mother is a bereavement counselor, and it is suggested numerous times that she needs to distance herself from her job when she is at home. She has difficulties dealing with the constant intrigues between the sisters. She tends to take Rachel’s side, because she is the tidy and conscientious one while Flora is a mess and is desperately trying to get her mother’s attention. The mother neglects her children and is not willing to deal with their problems. This has obviously had an effect on the two sisters and in particular on Flora. The mother deals with her clients’ problems and issues professionally, and therefore she has a great need of a safe and loving environment when she is off the clock. She needs to outdistance the clients’ problems and deal with the problems of her own. The...
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