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Wheel's Trick

Iridium's picture

            “I want to tell Billy how she’s just like her mother, but that would be like picking at a scab,” Roosevelt Beede. (Parks 224)

            Billy is like her mother. There are not only one implications in the novel, but several. They both get babies from men who jilted them. They both play good camouflage to people, such as Billy tells what happened to the wedding dress to Mr. Jackson and Mrs. Jackson, or as Willa Mae plays ring tricks and hardly got caught. Billy whistles songs which her mother used to sing when she is happy and relaxed. Billy sees The Hole from Mrs. Jackson, which Willa Mae always sees in people and then takes advantage of it. In the scene where Billy wants to return the dress, her facial expressions make Mr. Jackson “get the feeling she knows all about what he’s thinking” (82). She has so many things, visibly or invisibly, inherited from her mother. Also, not offensively, I have no idea whether she thinks of her mother when she went naked and appeared in the doctor’s office in order to get rid of the baby she carries. It shows that when she has no solution to a problem, by instinct, she imitates what her mother would do when facing the same situation. On the other hand, it seems that the mother and daughter either never begs people or ever fears to a degree that beg people. They are both strong-minded females. They live in a way with wings on the back. Willa Mae smiles and says she went to London to see Queen despite Dill knocks her down for worrying about her all night. Billy negotiates with Dill to get her mother’s body dug out even though she can feel Dill will shoot he or punch her in the next second. They both stands for themselves, for a thing not called belief, but called oneself.

            Yet we, both readers and characters in the novel except Billy, know how Billy is like her mother. However, Billy refuses to recognize it at the very beginning. Being a daughter of a person who are looked down upon by most folks living in the town is not pleasant. Mrs. Jackson contrast herself with Billy that her family makes her walk around with heads but “not like Billy Beede: shoulders pinched together, her head hanging down like a buzzard” (33). Aunt June brings up Willa Mae’s name to warn Billy not to do bad things- “don’t go stealing it.” (18). But Willa Mae to Billy Beede is not just a sense of unmentionably shameful reminiscence. Willa is a warning sign. She sees how her mother got a miserable life always on a move. That every time people mention about how she is like her mother only reminds her of the past nightmares and makes her cannot wait to escape from them. In the meanwhile, getting Billy out of those nightmares is a wish of both Billy and her mother, as Willa Mae sings,

            The game yr Mamma’s playing

            Keeps her full of misery.

            Wise up, child, turn yrself around.

As a result, Billy earns a good job in doing hair while Willa Mae is never willing to work. Billy expect a husband and a warm family so she acts quite sweet when facing “cousin” Alberta Snipe, while Willa Mae hovers around places but never marry a true husband. When she wants to get rid of the baby, she does not take herbs as her mother does but launch for a doctor. She needs money for the baby so she goes back to Ruthie Montomery’s with a dream of customers crowding in and huge tips from each of them.

            It seems like that she makes up many strings to entangle the wheel of fate from rolling.

            But it does not stop. Billy cannot avoid meeting the similar fate with her mother even though she is so desperately longing for a rosy and treacly life. To make life, she has to get her mother’s treasure, so as she has to study the fate that envelops her. As wished by the wheel, she picks up the skills she drops after Willa Mae dies. From the character inherited from her mother, when Billy does not get enough assist to leave for Lajuna, she steals Dill’s money and his truck. On the way to Lajuna, when they need money to move on but cannot borrow enough, Billy uses ring trick, which Willa Mae practiced with her for times to take money from greedy people’s pocket. When there is not a square way to earn a solution, Billy walks on her mother’s path again. She chooses to be like her mother again.

            “She’s got that picture of Willa Mae out of her purse, studying it, looking from the young woman in the picture to the young woman in the truck’s side mirror.” (222)

The good thing is, when she stops running away from being like her mom and faces it, she finds trails to get out of the fate. Because after all, the goals she is pursuing and Willa Mae is pursuing are different. Willa Mae wants to toy people, so everyone turns back on her, including Dill. Oppositely, Billy wants a plain life with everyone around her living peacefully. On the path of the mother’s and the daughter’s life rolled by the wheel, the daughter makes first few steps on her mother’s, but the life goal makes the daughter’s life line a big twist.

The direction is changed when Homer says. “you and me and that treasure could have some hot and wild fun.” (184) At this critical point, Billy does not listen to the lure but choose to sell the diamond ring and use money for June’s new leg and Teddy’s new church.

Then she engaged with Laz with a wedding ring “not a diamond, just a plain wedding band, but it was nicer than diamonds. I thought.” (256)

She is the apple fell from her mother’s tree, but her good will brings her a “good riddance” from the tree.

The wheel of fate makes tricks on her, but this time she picks the correct way.




Work Cited

Suzan-Lori Parks, Getting Mother's Body. New York: Random House, 2004.


Anne Dalke's picture

You do a fine job here of setting the many ways in which Billy resembles her mother against her repeated refusal to recognize their similarities.  You support both strands of your comparison with lots of good textual evidence, for which I thank you! I like your noticing that both Billy and Willa are “strong-minded females” who “stand for themselves”; and I appreciate your saying that when Billy “has no solution to a problem, by instinct, she imitates what her mother would do.”

You end by claiming, however, that Billy bids her mother “good riddance,” picking “the correct way” that frees her (is that your claim?) from the “wheel of fate.” I’m not entirely convinced of that; as I mentioned to Kat, /oneworld/comment/29107#comment-29107 , that “Great Wheel” which “keeps rolling along” seems to me an effective image of both repetition and progress--Billy as both like-and-different from Willa—all rolled up into one motion.

The question now is how you will move this paper forward into a revised version that complicates or interrogates what you’ve shown here. You might look @ the suggestions I made to Calliope, who also sees Billy as getting “free from her mother’s shadow” @ the end of the novel: /oneworld/comment/29108#comment-29108

Looking forward to seeing where you might go with this,