From Audrey Thomas’ Songs My Mother Taught Me, the protagonist is an unnamed girl who has just began to work in a mental hospital after running away from home and a loveless family. She has been placed on duty in Ward 88, reserved for the women who were “too disturbed or disturbing” (Thomas, 17). The girl experiences three women in the ward, all with their own psychological problems. Not long after, she begins to realize she has more in common with these mental patients than previously thought, especially with Beatrice, the patient who terrifies her the most.
The monster that Beatrice represents for the girl soon becomes a metaphor for how she views herself.
The girl, when viewing the typhoid carrier in the second room of ward 88, finds the woman “unhappy, cut-off, an out-cast,” she goes on to say “perhaps I was only projecting” (18). This projecting that she is doing shows that it is her that is feeling those emotions and projecting her inner feelings onto the mentally unstable patients in her ward. When the girl describes Beatrice, the most dysfunctional of the women in ward 88, she says that she is “a great long creature with coarse skin and twisted limbs” (18).
This view portrays her as grotesque, more creature than human, and taking into account that she seems to be projecting the thoughts of herself onto her patients, it seems that she feels that she is a hideous creature. After her first encounter with Beatrice, the girl flees to the staff room and cries. When her fellow nurse, Florence Reynolds asks if she is crying for Beatrice or for herself, she sobs “I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know” (18). This is an integral part of the story, it begins to show that the girl may not be scared of Beatrice as a person, but may be scared of what Beatrice represents to her. When Florence asked if it was because Beatrice was so young, the girl nodded. It frightened her that someone so young could be so damaged.
Over time,... [continues]
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