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The Twisted Relationship - Revised

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The Twisted Relationship


In Suzan-Lori Parks’ debut novel Getting Mother’s Body, an unusual mother-daughter relationship was portrayed: a mother who did not want to be called  “mother”, and a daughter who stated “I was glad to see her go” (Parks, 9) upon her mother’s death. After several pages into the book, Parks had already laid out this abnormal tension between the mother and the daughter. The cause of this abnormal mother-daughter relationship, however, was never clearly stated in the book. This essay will be examining this twisted mother-daughter relationship between Willa-Mae and Billy, and the cause of it. 

Parks had made it clear that Billy did not like Willa Mae. At the beginning of the book Billy said “Willa Mae was the biggest liar in Texas” (Parks, 9). Later on she got mad at Aunt June for June to compare Billy and Willa Mae (Parks, 19). Moreover, throughout the book, Billy never called Willa Mae as “mother” out loud; she called her by the name. If it is strange enough for a daughter to call her mother by her mother’s name, it would be even stranger if it was the mother’s request. Willa Mae did not want Billy to call her mother, as if she was trying to deny their mother-daughter relationship. At the first glance, it felt as if Willa Mae and Billy hate each other; but if we take a second look, we would find another posibility: the mother and daughter may still love each other. They have only chonsen an abnormal way to express themselves.

Throughout the book, there is many evidence that suggests so. Deep in heart, Billy and Willa Mae were still mother and daughter. Billy did not hate Willa Mae as much as she claimed to. One evidence is that even though Billy did not call Willa Mae “Mother” out loud, every time she thought of Willa Mae in her head, she would call her “mother,” as if she always wanted to call Willa Mae “mother” instead of by her name. At the same time, despite how Billy claimed to be “glad (Parks, 9)” about her mother’s death, she kept Willa Mae’s photo in her purse with her (Parks, 222), as if she had missed her all the times. Besides, Billy had spent too much with Willa Mae to know her mother by heart. Not only did Billy remembered the songs Willa Mae made up (Parks, 182), the tricks Willa Mae taught her, like how to use people’s “hole” and how to pull a ring trick (Parks, 27&198), Billy also knew where Willa Mae would hide her treasures (Parks, 254). She knew her mother by heart. So did Willa Mae. Like any mother, Willa Mae was proud of Billy. “My Billy’s got promise. She’s the best…I’ve ever seen. She’s got what you call a Natural Way, … she could do pretty good for herself. (Parks, 202)”, said Willa Mae. She cared and worried for Billy as mothers do as well: “Good Lord … My child is falling my footstep. But I tried not to worry.” (Parks, 247)  Despite how she did not want Billy to call her “mother”, Willa Mae still had a mother’s heart towards her daughter.

Hence, even though Willa Mae and Billy appeared to refuse their mother-daughter relationship, they were still mother and daughter. The question is, however, why did they choose to present a twisted mother-daughter relationship to other people? Why had Billy claim to hate her mother? The reason may be in social judgement towards Willa Mae and the Beedes.

The residents in Lincoln town did not think too good of Willa Mae, because she “had plenty of ‘husbands’ but never really got married (Parks, 19). ” Willa Mae did not think herself suitable as a role model as well: she was worrying about Billy following her footsteps (Parks, 247). In fact, Willa Mae was indeed not a good mother. Billy’s uncle evaluated Billy as “don’t know the basics (Parks, 51),” because Willa Mae was such a bad role model and because Willa Mae was not there by Billy’s side when she grew from ten to sixteen. Willa Mae also did not teach Billy right and wrongs: She taught Billy the ring tricks (Parks, 199), which got them in jail for several times, where Willa Mae was cursing out loud that even Billy felt awkward (Parks, 175). Willa Mae was “wild”, as many people called her; she was not the conventional kind of good woman. And Willa Mae knew it. Therefore, one of the reasons why she did not want Billy to call her mother maybe that she did not want other people to relate Billy to her, to take Billy away from negative social judgements. Billy maybe wanted to claim to hate Willa Mae for the same reason: to tell everybody that Billy was different from Willa Mae; to tell the world that Billy would be better.

If we take the mother-daughter relationship from this angle, we would find that this relationship is no longer twisted: it is just a mother wanting her daughter to have a better life.

Work Cited

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