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The Bitter Reality of Teenage Pregnancy - Essay Example

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This research is being carried out to evaluate and present the reason behind the cruel shunning Meredith Hall endured when she got pregnant as a teenager and the reason why her community accepts so many other dark and problematic practices but not her ‘transgression’…
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The Bitter Reality of Teenage Pregnancy
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The Bitter Reality of Teenage Pregnancy: An Analysis of Meredith Hall’s Shunned For Meredith Hall, teenage life was a dark journey to the unknown. Being pregnant at the age of 16 was an experience she will never forget. Being shunned, stigmatized, and disgraced by her family, church, school, and community was the greatest struggle that she had to face at a very young age. As narrated by Meredith Hall in Shunned, the ordeal of being an outcast due to a ‘big mistake’ the society thinks she committed was an experience that gave her the strength to confront life’s difficulties with an open mind and compassion. However, this experience left questions in her mind that until now she is trying to resolve. First is the reason behind the cruel shunning she endured when she got pregnant as a teenager. And second is the reason why her community accepts so many other dark and problematic practices but not her ‘transgression’. This essay tries to answer these two major questions by focusing on the relationship between Meredith and her mother. It is quite obvious in Hall’s narrative that her ‘transgression’ was used as a scapegoat by Meredith’s mother, Bonnie. Bonnie herself has weaknesses, within her own self and her relationships. She is trying to cover up these weaknesses by portraying an image of her family as happy and decent. As recounted by Meredith (Hall 2005, para 20): I felt important there, and loved. I heard every Sunday as we walked into church, “Oh, Bobbie, you have raised such wonderful children.” My mother told us we were special, a family united by the trauma of my father’s going, and made stronger for it. Church allowed us to parade our family’s bravery and fortitude. Smiling, slim and tan and absolutely capable, my mother led us into the gaze of our congregation. I was proud. When Mrs. Palmer and Mrs. Zitrick and Mr. Keniston and Crazy Lulu and Reverend Andrews nodded and smiled their hellos, I felt the light of adoration shine on me. In the pew, in the little chapel she had helped to build, my mother held my hand, and I was a child of grace. As depicted in the above account, one can immediately observe the somewhat close relationship between Meredith and her mother. Meredith looks upon her mother as one of the great pioneers of their church and her mother in turn looks at her as a child of purity and godliness. Meredith has loved going to the Church because of the good treatment she gets from the elders and her friends. Her mother is successful in hiding the fact, both from her and from the community, that her failed marriage has created a wide gap between her and Meredith; a gap that eventually leads to Meredith’s ‘transgression’ and consequent ‘shunning’. It is Meredith who in the end bears the consequences of her mother’s denial. So, what are the reasons why Meredith is shunned in the first place? Is it because she is used as a scapegoat by her own mother or is it because of the moral repercussions of her actions? And, more important, what are the short- and long-term effects of this shunning on Meredith? Meredith is shunned because she violated the long-established values of ‘innocence’ and ‘chastity’, and because her mother uses her as a scapegoat. Meredith’s story takes place in the 1960s, a period where a liberal outlook toward sexuality is not yet fully accepted. Their Church is obviously ruled by elders who views morality as an unforgiving and inflexible principle; a principle that should not be violated and, if someone does so, a heavy punishment is justly deserved. Meredith’s ‘moral transgression’ has been bolstered by her relationship with her mother which has been severely, but successfully concealed, damaged by her father’s decision to abandon their family; Bonnie, whether genuine or not, as a response to this major incident, tries to strengthen her bond with her children. As stated earlier, Bonnie proves to the Church and the community that she has a very strong relationship with her children just to hide the crack that slowly, but surely, weakens her children. As revealed by Meredith (Hall 2005, para 12): There was a silent hierarchy based in part on social class but also on something less tangible—an unswerving sense of who came from a ‘good’ family. They didn’t need to have money. But the good family must protect its secrets. No grandparent could be a public drinker or an atheist. If Dad walked out, Mother must become a saint. Bonnie is apparently protecting their image as a ‘good family’, even without her husband. And Meredith’s accidental pregnancy diverted the attention away from her mother’s weaknesses to her own weaknesses as an innocent adolescent. So, why did Meredith receive severe punishment for her ‘transgression’ while there are more problematic transgressions that are committed in their community? This may be due to the fact that sexuality is a heavily tabooed issue in their community, and chastity is greatly valued. Besides, the downfall of a supposedly ‘good family’ as a result of a prohibited sexual act seems to be a severe violation of Church rules. There is nothing more gossip-devouring and mortifying than the fact that a supposedly ‘perfect’ relationship between mother and daughter is in fact pestered by an unresolved problem: the act of denial. This cold-blooded shunning of young Meredith spawned in her feelings of unexplainable magnitude, such as depression, guilt, and sense of unworthiness. But all of these feelings were temporary. The truly outspoken and bold young Meredith became more and more daring and articulate. She became more cynical, questioning even God’s existence. She lost confidence in the very spiritual foundation she gained during her younger years. But the grownup Meredith became a mother, a mother that possesses the liberty that was deprived of her in 1965. Reference Hall, Meredith. “Shunned.” Creative Nonfiction. 2005 Web. 7 May 2012. . Read More
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