I Might See Things a Bit more Cynically

Question:

I’m once again re-reading some Alice books, despite knowing what happens and it overall not having a whole lot of exciting or big things happening, it’s mostly just life, it’s still entertaining to read. Maybe because it’s life and is still relateable with things.

Though some of the things mentioned in the series I just do not think I can wholeheartedly agree with. Like the idea that the Maternity Ward is “the only happy ward in the entire hospital”. In fact, I think the maternity ward, and NICU, are some of the toughest wards to be in.

What about girls, or even women, who got pregnant but didn’t want to be and yet were too late in discovering their pregnancy to maybe get an abortion? Would Pamela have thought the maternity ward was a happy place if she hadn’t miscarried, but given birth to a baby that she never wanted and was pretty much forced by nature to go through the process of birth? Or all the things that can go wrong during a birth or shortly after? I find it a bit over-generalizing to label it the only happy place in a hospital, since not everybody is happy about a child’s birth.

And I’m surprised at how shocked Alice was when she learned Elizabeth had been molested by a family friend. Harsh as a truth it may be, it’s actually much more common to be molested by a person you or your family trust than by a stranger. I think this is due to the fact that most children are brought up with the concept of Stranger Danger and not with the idea that it doesn’t matter who it is, but so much as what they do.

Though I admit, Alice has a rather idealized view of things until her late teen years, but I guess she can be forgiven by that because she had no mother for so long and hence never properly learned that mothers are not ideal idols to be placed on the pedestal of perfection.

But I wonder why, when Mrs Butler talked with (or rather to, since she didn’t bother to let Alice have a proper say in anything) Alice on the phone, why Alice didn’t stop her after finishing and said, “I understand your concern Mrs Butler, and now that you have had your say in the matter, allow me to give you my stand without interrupting me”. But perhaps Alice wasn’t quite ready for a verbal discussion via phone.

Phyllis replied:

You’ve made some good points, and there are arguments to be made both ways.  It’s wonderful to know that you are still drawn to the Alice books, and you’re right–though some of the books have more action or are more intense than others, this is the way I intended the series.  To reflect the life of a particular girl, and follow her through some of life’s events, from age 8 to 60.

You’re absolutely right that there are unhappy, and utterly tragic things that can happen on a maternity ward.  What was meant by a remark about it being the only “happy” ward in a hospital, is that so many of the patients are there for a happy, normal event, not because of an accident or an illness.  That some are there by accident or tragedy is not to be denied, but unlike broken legs or brain tumors or gall bladder disease, maternity is a normal life event.

And yes, of course, we know that statistically sexual molestation is more likely to occur by someone we know than by a stranger.  But there is also something very creepy about a long-time family friend being the molester.  We may know the statistics and still feel a chill when we realize how carefully he groomed Elizabeth to trust him.

And of course, if Mrs. Butler had not hung up on her, Alice might very well have said something very similar to what you suggest.  As with every scene in every book, there are thousands of different ways to write it.  But I chose the way I did, because I wanted to portray Mrs. Butler as a woman who did not want to hear the other side, nor did she give the other person a chance to respond.  I’m sure you would have done an excellent job of writing it a different way.

I very much appreciate hearing different views that readers have of my books.  In fact, I’m so pleased when I see that they have provoked thought and discussion.  Thank you again for taking time to write to me.

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