My Sisters Keeper Vs Saturday Climbing
The novel My Sister’s Keeper, and the short story Saturday Climbing share many similarities, as well as some differences. My Sister’s Keeper is a novel by Jodi Picoult about a girl, Kate who has leukemia. Kate has a brother, Jesse, who is seen as the outcast of the family. We learn that her sister, Anna is a donor for Kate to keep her healthy. Anna wants to file for medical emancipation from her parents so that she will have rights over her own body. Saturday Climbing by W. D. Valgardson tells of a girl, Moira and her relationship with her father Barry, and his struggle to let her go. The parents in both stories watch over their children as they grow up, each with a different feeling concerning the matter. In terms of characterization, Jesse and Moira are quite similar. Also, the parents in the two books have similar relationships and conflicts with their children, that were resolved in the end, each slightly different from the other. The two stories were similar in terms of the themes of growing up and characterization, yet were different with regards to the way the parent child conflicts were resolved.
Most parents want nothing more then to see their children grow up and blossom into young adults. For Sara, this is a dream she thought she would never see come true. However, her dream became reality when she was able to watch her daughter flirt with a boy. “I watch this, amazed. Who is this flirt, and what has she done with my little girl?” (My Sister’s Keeper, 308). Sara observes Kate flirting with Taylor, the boy she falls in love with. Sara wanted to have as many memories of Kate as possible that she could reflect on once Kate succumbed to her illness. “When they kiss, it is beautiful: those alabaster heads bent together, smooth as statues – an optical illusion, a mirror image that’s folding into itself.” (374). Sara is happy to see Kate grow up, because she never thought this day would come. She watches in hopes of having as many memories of her daughter as possible, especially this, the night of her prom. Sara is able to see Kate grow up throughout the novel, which is what she desperately longed for. Barry also witnesses his daughter Moira grow up.
For some parents, seeing a child grow up can be a scary thing, especially if that child is the only family they have left. Though, at first Barry is not happy to see his little girl grow up. Every sign of his daughter maturing from a little girl into a young woman frightened Barry, and makes him recall his own youth and the great differences that exist between his youth and his daughter’s.
“The weekend past, Moira had wanted to go to an all-night party with a boy he just vaguely recognized as having drifted through the house two or three times. Barry was dumbfounded. At the same age, he’d had to have his girlfriends in before midnight. If he had kept a girl out all night, her father would have met them with a shotgun.” (“Saturday Climbing”, 55-56).
Initially, Barry is reluctant to let Moira stay out all night at a party. Unlike Sara, he was not thrilled to see his daughter growing up. By the end of the story, there are changes in their relationship, and he is able to give his daughter freedom and responsibility. “Below her, her father, ever watchful, full of fear, smoothly payed out the rope, determined to give her all the slack she needed while, at the same time, keeping his hands tensed, ready to lock shut, ready to absorb the shock of any fall.” (59). Barry is able to accept that his daughter is growing up, and is able to give her some leeway. He lets her lead the climb which is symbolic of him accepting her maturity. Though, it is not on the same positive note that Sara had watched Kate grow up. For Barry is able to watch Moira grow up with a more open-minded and trusting approach. With teenagers, conflicts can be another problem.
Conflicts tend to exist between teenagers and their families, specifically their parents. A conflict exists between Jesse and his family. Jesse is seen to be the “bad apple” of the family, and there are not many signs that his parents have high standards for him. They suspect that he is making poor choices in his life. “I can identify pot running through his system, as opposed to some of the others – ecstasy, heroin, and God knows what else- which leaves less of a trace.” (My Sister’s Keeper, 38). Brian, Jesse’s father, suspects that Jesse is abusing substances. Jesse seems to have been given up a long time ago. However, it is not only the parents that seems to somewhat separate themselves from Jesse for, he causes some of the separation himself.
“To reach my brother’s room, you actually have to leave the house, which is exactly the way he likes it. When Jesse turned sixteen he moved into the attic over the garage- a perfect arrangement, since he didn’t want my parents to see what he was doing and my parents didn’t really want to see. Blocking the stairs to his place are four snow tires, a small wall of cartons, and an old oak desk tipped onto its side. Sometimes I think Jesse sets up these obstacles himself, just to make getting to him more of a challenge.” (14).
Jesse sets up obstacles in order to make it harder for people to reach him. These physical obstacles symbolise the walls he has built around himself emotionally as he refuses to let anyone in. The root of Jesse’s problems and destructive behaviour may have stemmed from the fact that he is disconnected from his family. “Finally, to develop optimally, they need to be connected to other humans and feel secure in their world.” (Gitelson, 862). This disconnection also leads him to feel insecure, because he is unable to help his sister, and cannot cope with this situation. The conflict between Jesse and the family is evident both physically and emotionally. Similar barriers exist between Moira and Barry.
Moira and Barry also have their fair share of conflicts. Like Brian and Jesse, Barry believes that Moira is falling down the wrong path. “Over the previous month, she had come home late a number of times. Each time, the sweet-sour smell of marijuana clung to her, and her pupils seemed unnaturally large. He had not dared to accuse her of smoking dope. If he was wrong, she would never forgive him for being unjust.” (“Saturday Climbing”, 54). Barry believes that Moira is taking drugs, much like Brian feels about Jesse, but much like Brian, he does not discuss this with her. Moira and her father have a series of arguments and falling outs, where barriers are put up. “That afternoon was filled with slamming doors, weeping and raised voices.” (56). Like Jesse, Moira puts up barriers to separate herself from her father. The slamming doors symbolize how she shuts him out of her life, much like Jesse shuts his family out of his life. At this point in both stories, neither Moira nor Jesse gets along with their parents very well. However, Moira’s relationship with Barry does not remain like this throughout the novel.
Moira’s relationship with her father strengthens as the story wears on. Barry is still unable to let his daughter go, because the thought of it pains him. “The thought of giving her so much responsibility was like the prick of a thorn. In all other things, he had been trying to keep her from rushing headlong into taking on too much responsibility at once. The result had been a long series of disagreements. (“Saturday Climbing”, 55). With regards to Moira going off to college, Barry does not wish to give her freedom to leave the home. He is not ready to let go of his little girl, who has become somewhat of a security blanket. When Moira is not around, Barry feels lost. They both become more open minded in the end, and were able to make progress and resolve their problems. “‘I’d come home for Christmas,” she said in a rush, “and classes are out in April. It’s not as if it was such a long time to be away.” She had caught him unawares, and none of his carefully prepared arguments were at hand. “It’s just so unexpected,” was all that he could manage. “I’ve got to leave sometime.’ ” (57). Barry’s inability to let Moira go slowly disappears throughout the story, and though it is still hard, he is able to let her go. Jesse and his family experience breakthroughs of their own.
The relationship between Jesse and the family made great progress throughout the novel, eventually leading Jesse to break down the walls that he has built up over the years, allowing us insight as to why he is so destructive. Though Jesse seems to have a series of behaviour problems, the root of all of his shortcomings is the one shortcoming he cannot get over, his inability to help his sister, Kate. “Jesse is the wild kid who does drugs and plays with matches, gets arrested for stealing a judge’s car and is generally hopeless. But he is acting out because he feels he is worthless, unable to help Kate. He calls himself “a lost cause”.” (“My Sister’s Keeper”, Curled up). There are many things that Jesse does that the family frowns upon, but what they do not realize is that he is bottling up his emotions. He cannot accept the fact that is unable to help Kate. Toward the end of the novel, the reader finds out that a big part of Jesse’s anger stems from Kate’s illness, and how unfair he finds it.
“It’s not fair, but Kate knows that. It doesn’t take a while long life to realize that what we deserve to have, we rarely get. I stand up, with that lightning bolt branding the lining of my throat, which makes it impossible to swallow, so everything gets backed up like a dammed river. I hurry out of Kate’s room and far enough down the hall where I won’t disturb her, and then I lift my fist and punch a hole in the thick white wall and still this isn’t enough.” (My Sister’s Keeper , 326).
This outburst is the first time the reader sees Jesse showing emotion. Like the rest of the family, Jesse feels this entire situation is unfair and is not ready to let go of Kate. The root of Jesse’s anger stems from the fact that he cannot save Kate, and he admits this to his father, Brian.
“‘I couldn’t save her.”….So I do what I know will destroy him: I pull Jesse into my arms as he sobs. His back is broader than mine. He stands a half-head taller than me. I don’t remember seeing him go from that five-year-old, who wasn’t a genetic match, to the man he is now, and I guess this is the problem, How does someone go from thinking that if he cannot rescue, he must destroy? And do you blame him, or do you blame the folks who should have told him otherwise?” (331).
Unlike Moira and her father’s problem that is solved through calm discussion, and results in her moving away, Jesse’s problem is solved through a break down, and brings the family closer together. The parent-child conflict in both stories is solved in the end, but the way that these conflicts are solved is quite different.
One can conclude that these stories can be compared in many different ways, from their similarities regarding the signs of growing up and character’s personalities to the differences of how family conflicts reached their conclusion. The novel, My Sister’s Keeper, and the short story Saturday Climbing share many similarities as well as differences. The theme of growing up is presented differently in each novel, while similarities existed in characterization and similarities and differences existed in the way the parent-child conflicts were solved. The two novels tell powerful stories of family relationships, and letting go. Where it must be realized that what one wants, one does not always get. Lives fall apart, but find a way of coming together in the end, somehow. The love that exists between a parent and a child although not always blatantly evident is unconditional and insurmountable. This bond can never be broken.