English assignment 12
Analysis and interpretation of “The Dress” by Julia Darling
“The Dress” is a short story written in 2006 by Julia Darling. The story describes how the strained relationship between the two sisters Rachel and Flora and their mother’s lack of ability to deal with emotions outside her working hours combined with a conflict concerning the loan of a dress become the factors that lead to the end of their life together as a family.
The plot unfolds on the mother’s fortieth birthday and spans less than a day, as we enter the story in medias res, when Rachel is standing in the hallway screaming for her sister after having realized that she has taken her dress. From here ...view middle of the document...
It is probably no wonder that Rachel, having a personality like this, does not get along very well with her sister Flora, who opposite Rachel appears sloppy and rather childish –she is not able to resist the temptation when she finds her sister’s dress in the kitchen, even though she is perfectly aware that she is not allowed to try it on, and when she at the restaurant is confronted with her crime she tries to avoid the confrontation by changing the subject, then later by lying about it until she finally breaks down crying and tells the truth. Flora envies her sister’s looks and personality and she feels submissive to Rachel. Wearing the dress makes her feel better about herself, and in a way she justifies her taking the dress by concluding that she needs it more than Rachel, as the text says on page 8-9, line 35-37:
“it seemed to Flora that the dress was meant for her, not Rachel. It made her feel taller, braver, cleverer, and Rachel was all those things already.”
Another explanation to the dramatic outcome of their fight over the dress could be that this probably is not their first fight, but more likely the culmination of years of constant bickering, which is also suggested by the mother on page 10, line 89-90: ”communication between her daughters was often like this: barbed and dangerous.”
The mother herself though does not appear very helpful when it comes to solving the conflict between her daughters. She is a forty year old divorced woman, who works as a bereavement counselor and lives alone with her two daughters. Turning forty she seems to be in a smaller midlife crisis: she feels old and is tired of her job and all the sadness it involves. In general she is tired of taking care of others as the text says on page 10, line 96-97:
“She felt sorry for herself. All day she had sat with tearful needy people. It was her birthday, and she wanted to relax. She wanted to feel loved.”
This quote shows that the mother is really busier feeling sorry for herself than trying to solve the daughters’ conflict. She longs to be paid the same attention, that she is obligated to pay other people every day –at work and at home. For the mother’s problem is that she is only able to handle emotions the way she does professionally. Emotions outside in the real world makes her uncomfortable –as the text says on page 10, line 103-104, she “wanted life to be calm, a...