Charlie was only fifteen when she had her first two children, her and her husband had to work to make ends meat, she had never experienced any form of mental illness; however, Charlie’s mother-in-law never wanted her to marry her son, or have his children. In a hypertext version of Velma Dobson and Bruce D. Sales’ The Science of Infanticide and Mental Illness they write that “In all cases reported (of infanticide), the women were poor, young, and unmarried, and all had denied or concealed their pregnancy.
None had a history of mental illness, but all were described as passive, withdrawn, immature individuals who feared rejection by their families. ” Though Charlie did not experience infanticide with these children, the over all lost of them and struggles to regain them, allowed Charlie project her feelings on her new children. While Charlie does not seem to have any issues before she gets married and has children. After the sudden lose of them she develops several mental heath issues.
The visions of Charlie wanting to kill Mary and Lecia and not her first two children is explainable. In a hypertext version of Velma Dobson and Bruce D. Sales’ The Science of Infanticide and Mental Illness they write that “In summary, there appear to be two distinct types of women who commit infanticide. The first group, those who kill their infants within twenty four hours of birth, tend to be young, unmarried women with no history of mental illness who deny or conceal their pregnancy, fearing disapproval or rejection by their family.
When confronted with the child at childbirth, they see killing and concealment of the infant as the only way to continue their denial of the pregnancy. The second group of women, those who kill their infants after the first postnatal day, tend to be older and married, and to have a history of mental illness. The women in the second group are frequently psychotic or depressed. They are often in situations of family and social stress, and may believe that killing of the child is the only way to alleviate the child’s suffering or potential suffering.
” With her first set of children she is classified into the first group of women who experience infanticide. Charlie is young, in perfect state of mental heath, and has a constant feeling of disapproval and rejection by her mother-in-law. As time passes and Charlie tries to replace the lose of them with her second set of children, Mary and Lecia. By the time she has them she is older, has developed several cases of mental issues, and she is depressed. Charlie’s life has become a mess, which creates stress not only on her but the entire family.
Charlie becomes convinced that the only way to alleviate the grief that they are suffering because of her is to kill them. Mary hangs off of every word her mother says, trying to completely understand where she is coming from. However, Mary question why it had taken so long for all of this to come out when she writes, “As to why she hadn’t told us all this before- about the marriages and the lost children- her exact sentence stays lodged in my head, for it’s one of the more pathetic sentences a sixty-year-old woman can be caught uttering: ‘I thought you wouldn’t like me anymore.
‘” (Karr 318) By Charlie stating that she thought that Mary and Lecia would not like her anymore, proves how sever her depression has become. Even after years and years Charlie is still afraid that she will be left by these children, just as she was by her other. Mary Karr writes a memoir of her childhood in The Lair’s Club, although it is mainly about her struggles of growing up in Texas, with her mother; the most important aspect of it is the examples of her mother’s depression.
Though Mary is unaware of her mother’s state of mental heath it is a key point in the decisions that she makes concerning Mary. Charlie Karr tries her hardest to hide her past from her children, for what she thinks is the best for them. It is the unveiling of the skeleton’s in her closet to Mary that explains a lot of baffling parts of Mary’s life, which eventually brings Mary and her mother closer together.
Dobson, Velma; Sales, Bruce D. “Ovid. ” The Science of Infanticide and Mental Illness. 2000. 22 February 2006 http://gateway.ut.ovid.com