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Mother-Daughter Relationship

Free Rein's picture

Did Billy Beede follow the footsteps of her mother?

It is vividly evident in the novel that the relationship between Billy Beede and Willa Mae was heavy and dysfunctional. Billy Beede never wanted to associated with her own mother. After they received a letter from Candy Napoleon about how she had sold some part of her land and that some developers were in the process of building a supermarket in the land where her mother’s grave was, she threw all her cares into the wind. She says, “Willa Mae getting paved over don’t bother me none.” (44) she was not troubled by her mother’s death. She told Snipes, “Willa Mae passed and it didn’t bother me none. I was glad to see her go.” (9) she called her by her name, Willa Mae, instead of mother. However, as I was reading the novel, I kind of saw some character traits that Billy had acquired from her mother.

Willa Mae used the idea of identifying people’s holes to get whatever she wanted. She explained that a hole is a” soft spot, sweet spot, opening, blind spot, itch, gap call it what you want but I call it a hole. To get the best of a situation you gotta know a man’s Hole” (31) she said that everybody possessed one but in different places. Billy also took up this trait like in the case where she only had sixty-three dollars and wanted to buy a wedding dress from Mrs. Jackson whose actual price was one hundred and thirty dollars. She identified Mrs. Jackson’s hole and manipulated her into getting the wedding dress and a pair of shoes too. She acknowledged that, “Mother said she could see Holes all the time but I ain’t never seen one. Until now.” (27)

In Tryler town, Billy in conjunction with some of her relatives pulled a ring trick in the Texaco when they had run out of money for gas. Billy said that it was a trick she had learnt from her mother where she played the role of the Finder while her mother pretended to be the Rich Lady. Willa Mae had in turn learnt of the ring trick from her then husband, Son Walker with whom they used to pull it together in order to get money. She inducted Billy into pulling it after Son Walker left because Dill Smiles didn’t want too honest to take part in it.

I also think that Billy Beede had followed into her mother’s footsteps through the thought of abortion. After Billy Beede met Myrna on her journey to Texhoma, Myrna gave her a piece of paper with Doctor Parker’s name on it. She told her that he would be of help if she wanted to get rid of the baby. She assured her of her safety in Mr. Parker’s hands; that it wouldn’t be painful and that it would only take the minimum time possible. I think the reason why Billy Beede decided to abort besides changing her decision to marry Snipes was because her mother had taken it except that this time around, she was sure that she would be safe because it would be performed by a medical practitioner than her mother who had chosen to administer it herself. Also, after taking a glance at Myrna and seeing how flat her belly was and that she was very much alive, she was convinced that she too was going to be okay. However, I don’t know what corrupted her mind about this because Billy Beede decided to keep the baby in the end.

Willa Mae and Billy Beede also have contrasting character traits. Teddy revealed that Willa Mae distasted working while Billy was a hairdresser at Ruthie Montgomery’s salon before quitting. He also said, “Willa Mae was always singing her songs and flaunting herself. Billy can’t even carry a tune.” (36) Billy was skilled at doing hair while Willa Mae was a prowess in singing. Willa Mae cared about Billy while Billy didn’t. Willa Mae posthumously chimed in the novel and most of her songs appear after or before Billy’s sections. She cared about the welfare of her daughter and as any mother would do, she gave advice to Billy. She acknowledged the fact that her way of life wasn’t one that one would choose to emulate but she warned her from making the same mistakes and from tripping the way she had. A really good and straight-forward example is her song, “Don’t do whatcha see me do, Don’t walk nowhere I lead, My middle name is Trouble, First is Sin and last is Greed, Wise up, child, turn yourself around.” (246)

In conclusion, I think Billy Beede followed the footsteps of her mother. The decisions she made about her own life seem to take the path of her mother. Although I know Billy Beede would also deny this, she strongly represented an extension of her mother.

Works Cited

Parks, Suzan-Lori. Getting Mother’s Body. New York: Random House. 2003. Print




Anne Dalke's picture

Free Rein—
Your essay is tightly argued. You begin by asking if Billy Beede followed the footsteps of her mother, and you end by asserting that she did. In between, you cite quite a few passages in which Belly Beede disavows her mother; you counter these with quite a few others in which you show her acquiring a number of her mother’s character traits; then you counter these with a list of the “contrasting character traits” of the two women.

Given the complexity of the textual evidence you draw on, I was surprised and puzzled to see you end by claiming that “Billy Beede followed the footsteps of her mother.” What about Billy’s report, in the last chapter of the novel, of her settled married life? How is that an example of her following in her mother’s “footsteps”?

Here, too, is a sentence I couldn’t quite parse: “I don’t know what corrupted her mind about this because Billy Beede decided to keep the baby in the end.”

Let’s talk, when you come to your conference this week, about ways in which you might draw more fully on the quotes you’ve found to construct a more complex argument. See too the readings I suggested to Francesca, who developed an argument similar to yours: /oneworld/comment/29108#comment-29108

Looking forward to seeing where you might go with this,