Well, shit. I had this entire post already written and was just coming on here today to edit it. Unfortunately, WordPress has decided to eat it.
This chapter is going to take me longer than usual to grind out. Apologies.
I have been looking forward to this chapter for some time. This chapter does not exist in the original edition of The Stand, and was something Stephen King really didn’t want to take out.
Is it a good thing for him to have put back in? Well, that depends. Normally I’m the type of person who loves more content and hates edited editions.
However, I’m going to have to go with King’s original edition on this. The scene where Fran tells her mother that she’s pregnant isn’t really necessary to the overall plot of the book. It advances character development for people who we’re never going to see again, and it just drags out the story.
With that out of the way, let us begin.
The chapter starts with Frannie Goldsmith comparing her mother’s favorite room, the parlor, to her father’s favorite room, his workshop. This goes on for like, 10 pages.
You know, even if King did want to include Fran’s argument with her mother, he still could’ve taken out a lot of this and we would have lost nothing.
We get another few pages of description of the grandfather clock, which sounds like a really cool clock but Fran hates it, mostly because it’s in the parlor and her mom really likes it. Get over it Frannie, that’s an awesome clock. Jeez.
Then we get a list of Fran’s memories of her mother, and things start getting a little more relevant.
Someone built a gas station that was visible from the parlor window, and Fran’s mom, Carla, begged her husband to do something about it, so he planted a hedge. Carla then nagged him to do something to make the hedge grow faster.
More descriptions of the parlor. I don’t care.
It was in the parlor that her mother had talked to her after she caught Frannie and Normal examining each other in the barn. How would she like it, Carla asked as the grandfather clock solemnly ticked off segments of time in a dry age, if she took Frannie out for a walk up and down US Route 1 without any clothes on? Frannie, then 6, had cried.
This is a sadly realistic reaction to a very normal childhood development. It is also comparable to Alice’s reaction to her son Larry writing a naughty word. In that case, she actually did write the word on his forehead and take him down a busy street where lots of people saw him.
Both these punishments are horrible, but you could argue that at least Carla didn’t actually follow through with it. It’s a weak argument, though.
When Fran was 10 she had ridden her bike into the mailbox post while looking back over her shoulder to yell something to Georgette. She cut her head, bloodied her nose, lacerated both knees, and had actually grayed out for a few moments with shock.
What were mailbox posts like in the 1960s? I don’t remember even being able to ride my bike into mine.
Fran’s father was at work, so Fran went to her mother after this incident. Her mother was in the parlor serving tea to Mrs. V and Mrs. P.
“Get out!” Her mother had screamed, and the next moment she was running to Frannie, embracing her, crying “Oh Frannie, oh dear, what happened, oh your poor nose!” But she was leading Frannie back into the kitchen, where the floor could safely be bled upon. And even as she was comforting her, and Frannie never forgot that her first two words that day hadn’t been “oh Frannie” but “Get out!”
Her first concern had been for the parlor. Perhaps Mrs. P never forgot either, because even through her tears Frannie had seen a shocked, slapped expression cross the woman’s face. Mrs. P had become something of a seldom visitor after that.
House guests do pick up on these things more than people would hope. When someone cares more about the carpet than the fact that their child is badly injured, that says a lot about a person’s character.
In fact, let’s talk for a little bit about Carla Goldsmith’s character. Yes, she’s a terrible mother. Yes, she’s a terrible person. There is not one redeeming thing I can think of to say about Carla Goldsmith.
And that’s a problem. It’s a problem because people aren’t like this. People are a mixture of good and bad. Yes, my father was verbally and emotionally abusive to me all my life. Normally, if you interrupted my father while he was working, there was hell to pay. However, if I had walked in with an injury like this, he would’ve dropped everything and gotten me to a doctor. He absolutely was more concerned with me and my well being than he was with his precious work, and his boss could suck his dick if he had a problem with that.
My father is an asshole, but he also loves me. I think a lot of us could say the same thing about our parents.
Look at Larry’s mother, Alice. Yes, she’s emotionally manipulative and abusive. But she also loves her son. She may have different ways of showing it (buying Larry’s favorite foods vs saying “I love you”), but she clearly does love her child even though she also kind of hates him.
Frankly, I’m a little surprised to see such a non nuanced character in a Stephen King novel. Most of his characters are well rounded individuals. Even the people who wind up becoming the villains of the book get more character development than this.
Which, in my opinion, is another reason this confrontation should have been kept out. Carla Goldsmith isn’t a person, she’s a cardboard cutout character of the mean mother stereotype.
And it only gets worse from here.
When Fran tells Carla she’s pregnant, Carla asks “How did this happen?”
Which, as a first reaction, isn’t terribly out of line.
It was Jesse’s question. That was what really pissed her off. It was the same question he had asked.
Yes. How dare your boyfriend and your mother ask how you got pregnant. You especially shouldn’t be mad at Jesse about this, because, he knew you were on birth control. Unfortunately, most men assume that birth control has a 100% success rate. I suspect what Jesse and Carla actually mean is “how did your birth control not work?” Actually, that may be what Jesse was thinking. Given what Carla later says, she may be thinking something like, “how did you go against your Christian training?”
Fran snarkily replies that Carla, having had 2 kids already, knows damn well how Fran got pregnant. Naturally, Carla finds this upsetting, but her reaction is, frankly, over the top.
“How could you do something like this to your father and me? Was it that boy Jesse?….How could you do it? We did our best to bring you up in the right way. This is just…just…” She put her hands to her face and began to weep…..”How could you do it? After all we’ve done for you, this is the thanks we get? For you to go out and…and…rut with a boy like a bitch in heat? You bad girl! You bad girl!”
She dissolved into sobs.
Fran’s father, a few chapters ago, told us that Carla was the way she was because Freddie’s death made her stop growing as a person. That Carla’s values were….locked in an older time. However, I’m not seeing this. What I am seeing is probably not altogether different from how this still happens in Christian families.
Carla goes on like this for a while, until Fran has had enough and gets up to leave. Alas, she is so upset she trips over her own foot, lands on the coffee table, and accidentally knocks over a vase, which spills water onto the carpet.
Carla then proceeds to get upset about the carpet. Fran opens her mouth to tell her mother that it’s just water, but, having just hit her head, she is confused and disoriented.
Carla then tells Fran that she is kicking her out. She doesn’t want a pregnant daughter, because what will the neighbors think?
Fran tells her mother that she doesn’t want to stay here, to which Carla responds “where are you going to go?”
So wait, does Carla want Fran to leave, or doesn’t she? She seems rather contradictory, here. She wants Fran to leave, but she also wants Fran to beg to stay. When Frannie doesn’t do this, Carla throws a fit.
I’ve never been pregnant. Any of my ex SDA friends want to chime in and tell me if this is how their parents reacted when they got pregnant? I have a feeling a lot of this confrontation is realistic, but there are some parts that make me scratch my head.
Fran tells her mother she might go live with some friends, and that where she ends up going is none of her business.
“No business of mine? no business of mine? What you do when you’re under my roof is no business of mine? You ungrateful little bitch!”
Technically, Fran and Jesse did it on the beach. Also, if she moves out, she’s not under your roof anymore, so yeah, what business is it of yours?
She slapped Frannie, and slapped her hard.
Carla rants for a while about how Fran will have to quit school and marry Jesse. When Fran says that she isn’t going to do any of those things, Carla thinks Fran means she is having an abortion, and gets even more upset.
So, to recap:
- Carla doesn’t want Fran to have an abortion, because ZOMG you want to be a murderer too?!?!?!?!?
- Carla doesn’t want Fran to be pregnant
Has Carla realized that she can’t have both these things at the same time? I mean yes, ideally Fran wouldn’t be pregnant. But the pregnancy is here now, so it’s a little too late for that. Carla is still stuck on “ideal situation” mode even though the time for that is long past, and frankly, there’s no way Fran can win, here. She can’t make herself unpregnant without an abortion, even if that was what she wanted.
Though Clara is being contradictory, I do not find this an unrealistic reaction. That’s sad, but that’s how it is in a lot of Christian families.
“I’m going to have the child. I’ll have to take the spring semester off, but I can finish next summer.”
That’s a big assumption. I think you’ll find babies are too much work for that, unless you have a helluva lot of money and support.
Carla informs Frannie that she is not going to pay for her to finish school, and that she will not get any of her money. Carla goes on for a bit about how heartbroken Fran’s father will be, which of course is Fran’s father’s cue to finally show up. Apparently he has some kind of 6th sense, because he switched shifts with someone just so he could be here for this.
“Fran’s already told me, Carla. We are going to be grandparents.”
“Grandparents!” She shrieked. “You leave this to me. She told you first and you kept it from me. All right. It’s what I’ve come to expect of you. But now I’m going to close the door and the two of us are going to thrash this out.”
I don’t blame Carla for being upset that Fran told Pete first and then waited a few days. However, if I were Carla, my upsetness would have more to do with the fact that my child didn’t trust me enough to come to me first, and then I would sit there and try to figure out why. Because at that point, clearly I have done something to shatter my child’s trust.
But Carla isn’t me, and doesn’t react that way at all. Carla tries to shut Peter Goldsmith out of the parlor. Peter tries to prevent Carla from shutting the door on him. Carla tries to ram into him with her head, Peter just tries to ignore her and keep her from shutting him out of the room. When Peter Goldsmith is unable to budge Carla, he slaps her.
All the fight goes out of Carla. Peter immediately apologizes–sort of.
“You have had that coming for 10 years or better. I always told myself I didn’t do it because I don’t hold with hitting women. I still don’t. But when a person–man or woman–turns into a dog and begins to bite, someone has to shy it off. I only wish, Carla, I’d had the guts to do it sooner. ‘Twould have hurt both of us less.”
I don’t actually have much of a problem with Peter slapping Carla. At this point, it was in self defense. However, to say that she’s had that coming, that she deserved it… yes Peter should have stood up to Carla before. Yes Carla probably did deserve to be hit. However, hitting her isn’t necessary in order for Peter to stand up to his wife.
Violence should be the last resort, not the answer. And so, while I have a hard time faulting him for slapping her in this situation, I also have a hard time with allowing the character to justify it to himself.
Peter then gives Carla a lecture on how selfish she’s being, about how she stopped caring about Fran after Fred died because not caring was safer. Yet Carla does care– about what other people will think of her.
“It’s my fault for letting you go on. For not wanting any unpleasantness. For not wanting to rock the boat. I was selfish, too, you see. And when Fran went off to school I thought, well, now Carla can have what she wants and it wont’ hurt nobody but herself, and if a person doesn’t know they’re hurting, why, maybe they’re not. I was wrong. I’ve been wrong before, but never as bad as this.”
Peter gets points for admitting this. Yes, he was wrong not to stand up for Fran before. Yes, he should have said or done something a longass time ago. But at least he’s able to admit that, and I think that speaks to his character.
“Now, I am telling you this as your husband. If Frannie needs a place to stay, this can be the place–same as it always was. If she needs money, she can have it from my purse–same as she always could. And if she decides to keep her baby, you will see that she has a proper baby shower….. I’ll tell you one more thing, too. If she wants it christened, it will be done right here. Right here in this goddamned parlor.”
It almost sounds like Pete thinks he can do this because he is Carla’s husband. It would have come across better if he’d said something like, “Fran is my daughter, too, and this is my house, too.” And in any case, he can’t make Carla plan the baby shower.
Carla protests that the baby can’t be christened in the parlor, because that’s where Fred’s casket lay. Peter responds that he can’t think of a better reason to celebrate new life there.
He tells Carla that it’s way too late for Fred, but it’s not too late for Frannie and her child. He tells Carla she can drive them off if she wants to, but he won’t let her, and even if he did let her succeed, Carla would have nothing but the house, the parlor, and a husband who hated her.
Peter then helps Carla up the stairs to the bedroom, with Carla ranting the whole time about how Fran may as well just destroy everything in the parlor.
Peter comes back down and reassures Fran that her mother will come around. Fran disagrees, and says she should leave. Peter says she should stay, because he wants her to stay, and he’s pretty sure her mother will too–eventually.
The chapter ends with Frannie crying on her father’s shoulder about how sorry she is, and her father telling her to hush.
I know that Stephen King did not take this confrontation out of the original edition because he wanted to. I know he took it out because of printing costs. However, I think that, if he really wanted readers to be able to enjoy them, it would have been all too easy to just make the deleted scenes available on the internet for free and not redo the entire book. Or perhaps I am just salty because it is difficult to get a copy of the original edition, as it is now out of print, and I absolutely cannot get a kindle copy of it.
I’ll try to get another post up sometime next week, whether it be The Shack or The Stand. Writing has gotten difficult lately, partly because of depression and partly because…. well, that’s another post entirely. I’ll get there, though, eventually.