Spoiled Children of Divorce

The Oresteia & Hamlet
February 7, 2008, 10:47 pm
Filed under: Books, Plays about growing up in Divorce, Uncategorized

I was thinking back to great works of literature and the closest I’ve come so far to issues regarding Children of Divorce are issues of Children who kill a parent when that parents kills the other parent.

First off I thought of the Oresteia, a trilogy from Ancient Greece written by Aeschylus. I read it in College and was amazed at how well it portrayed a lot of the emotional tensions of growing in a Divorced Family with the child sacrifice and blame, betrayal, and ultimately tragic behavior.  Having been raised on the Brady Bunch b.s. I was in 7th Heaven that literature could actually tell the truth.

In this story Agamemnon returns from fighting in the Trojan War. He’s bringing along a new girlfriend, Cassandra. His wife, Clytemnestra, meanwhile, is plotting his death to avenge that he had their daughter sacrificed during the War (Iphegenia). Oh yeah, and she’s been shacking up with his cousin while he’s away and the cousin really hankers after the throne.

So Cassandra kills Agamemnon and all’s cool for her except for one tiny thought that if her son, Orestes, ever hears of this he’ll have to return and avenge his Father’s death. Orestes was sent away as a baby for some kind of security reason and nobody even knows what he looks like. Meanwhile, there’s the other daughter, Electra. the kids just get in the way, don’t they?  Electra’s hanging out at her Father’s grave, weeping and moaning over the loss of her Father and the deceitfulness of her Mother when a strange man walks up. It’s Orestes. They have a chat about what’s been going on and Orestes goes off to kill his Mother and StepFather. After the murder, a group of nagging witches descend on him and promise to chase him for the rest of his life. It turns out that in Ancient Greece the Mother could get away with killing her husband without being chased by these “Furies” but a blood relation can not.  Doesn’t matter the reason. In the last playof the trilogy, Orestes is finally released from the Furies harassment when the gods throw a trial for him of his peers. Favoritism by the Gods and the new Judicial System represent the new form of Greek Laws where true Justice can only exist if accompanied by a feeling of Mercy.  The old idea of Justice being “an eye for eye” is tossed out here as barbaric.

So, I guess that’s that. The Child who is born with a rotten parent just has to suffer. In ancient Greece, a man could easily divorce a woman but it wasn’t the other way around. I guess a lot of women were killing their husbands in order to move on.

Sort of along this line is the story of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Hamlet learns that his Uncle has killed his Father and married his Mother. His predicament is slightly more complicated than Orestes’.  He hestitates about whether or not to kill the Uncle and plays all kinds of games in order to decide.  I think his confusion is standard Child of D. type of thinking. In the end, his inability “to know” what to do is his downfall and almost everyone in the castle ends up dead at the end.  The play is all about grief, rage, insanity and family.

3 Comments so far
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Wow, you really like to go to the dark side, don’t you?

I never had all that craziness. OK, yes my parents did get divorced and yes my father did remarry to a woman I didn’t like…OK, I still don’t like, but we never killed one another. OK there were times I think we both thought about it (my step-mother and I), but we never went through with it.

Oh and yes, my mother did remarry a guy that turned out to be paranoia schizophrenic and we later had to rescue her from his clutches (you can’t make up this stuff).

I guess life really is stranger than fiction huh?

Oh well, keep up the good work and I’ll keep reading … and commenting.

All my best,

Comment by AntonioFWW

Thanks for your participation Antonio! Your family sounds like a tough situation. Yes, life is stranger than fiction. Nobody really believes real life.

The use of murder in these stories is more a literary device to emphasize the emotional extremes of the situation. Although there are real situations like this in life, the extreme behavior is used to bring about a catharsis in the audience. If you can see your feelings acted out in their logical fashion, you can get mental distance and realize how tragic it would be if you actually actted out on them. Literature is an awesome healing tool!

Thanks again for sharing your story. Hey, I think I accidentally deleted your last one. Sorry, it was a mistake.

Comment by toothless

What is the saying, life imitates art or art imitates life? Or does it work both way? It really makes you think huh.

While people, on a general everyday sense, are not killing one another like in these literary works, or art, they are purposely hurting one another as a result.

My good friend refuses to speak with her father after he left her mother to run away with another woman. She has essentially cut him out of her life. He is “dead to her,” while not literally and as dramatically as in these examples the basic ideal is still there. It is the “you’re going to hurt me?, well fine I’m goin to hurt you back.”

Then again some do not respond that way at all. Working for http://www.firstwivesworld.com has afforded me to meet many people affected by divorce in many different ways. Some took their parents divorce in very good stride and it is just a fact of life, like the sky is blue, or so is the ocean (unlesss you live in Delaware).

Very interesting to see how people react and almost an escape to see it in art.

Just my two cents.
Ann Marie

Comment by Ann Marie

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