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By James F Kilroy (auth.)

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55 His optimistic claims are repeatedly undercut, so that what he posits as truth or plausibility is often at variance with what the reader concludes. At a critical point, for instance, when the narrator proclaims his “unutterable happiness,” he finds his home burning to the ground (125). Such sudden narrative turns undercut the implied lines of causality as well as the articulated claims of the narrator. The symmetry of the narrative resembles that of the classic literary confession, in which the fall from grace leads to a climax of spiritual discovery.

The position of Fanny, the daughter of the least prosperous of these sisters, is clouded. The alienation of one sister from the others is a matter to be regretted, for mutual affections and responsibilities among siblings are valorized; but the response of each may be justified by their roles both in their natal families and in terms of those family roles they have assumed through marriage. In recounting this initial family rift, a fundamental question under ideological consideration has been specified: what are the bounds of sibling relationships, before and after such fraternal members marry?

Again, Althusser provides the defining statement: children, he argues, are always born into roles determined by family ideology: It is certain in advance that it will bear its Father’s Name, and will therefore have an identity and be irreplaceable. Before its birth, the child is therefore always-already a subject, appointed as a subject in and by the specific family ideological configuration in which it is “expected” once it has been conceived. I hardly need add that this family ideological configuration is, in its uniqueness, highly structured, and that it is in this implacable and more or less “pathological” (presupposing that any meaning can be assigned to that term) 36 structure that the former subject-to-be will have to “find” its place.

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