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Doris Lessing's

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Introduction

"The Fifth Child" The character of Ben Lovatt in Doris Lessing's "The Fifth Child" is one that is very powerful, and also extremely interesting. He is violent, and unbelievably strong, yet he would not be able to fend for himself in the "big, bad World". Doris Lessing's use of a very effective mixture of characterisation, symbolism and language use result in a very intriguing and fascinating novel. At the start of the novel, the reader is lulled into a sense of happiness and perfection in the lives of Harriet and David. The description of the house that they buy gives the impression that they have lots of positive plans for the future. When the house is being described, there is a short but very effective sentence, at the end of the paragraph: "Full of space for children, in fact" This does not say that they plan to have children, but it simply suggests. The feeling of happiness and eternal bliss seems to continually get stronger and stronger. A major sign of this happiness is the regular family get-togethers held at the Lovatt's house. These are attended by a large number of people, and all of them have a great time. ...read more.

Middle

There are several occasions where this is shown. Ben is seen "hissing" and "spitting" - both acts that would be associated with a wild animal of some sort. Doris Lessing also makes good use of characterisation with the other characters. All of the other children are clearly heavily affected by Ben entering their family. Jane, Luke, and Helen all go off to live somewhere other than home, either with other relations or at boarding school - anywhere to get away from Ben. Helen starts school a year early, obviously because she wants to be able to get away from where Ben is, for a while. However, the worst case of Ben's effect on a person has to be, undoubtedly, his older brother Paul. From the incident where Paul's arm is badly sprained by Ben, and then on, it is clear to see that Ben is a seriously disturbed little boy. He is a regular patient of psychiatrists. Paul is often crying and he seems to be very insecure and frightened by almost everything even remotely scary. Harriet is dealt with a very difficult dilemma. Should she allow her son to die, and have the benefit of returning to the "happy family" situation that they had before Ben was born, or should she do what her maternal instincts tell her to do, and help Ben? ...read more.

Conclusion

Ben proceeds to destroy all happiness that was previously possessed by the Lovatt family, and scars the lives of his siblings, especially his brother Paul, who becomes very disturbed by Ben's presence. Ben severs all good ties that Harriet had with other relations, by causing Harriet to choose between her maternal instincts and her family, and also causes her to brand herself with the tag of a "criminal". Ben becomes a real "monster" and gets involved in robberies and riots, and becomes a real "menace to society". At the end of the novel, Harriet ponders this strange offspring of the otherwise idyllic middle-class family. Who, or what, was Ben? Beast, goblin, throwback, alien, or a "normal healthy fine baby"? Everyone had different opinions on what Ben was. No-one could quite give Harriet the answer she was looking for; no matter how hard she searched. Doris Lessing deals with these questions without ever quite managing to answer them. She explores the conditions of human acceptance, and what is deemed "normal", and how things that do not match this are treated. Doris Lessing is insistent throughout the novel that Ben is something other than human, by using very negative language and showing very negative viewpoints on Ben. Adam Pomphrett ...read more.

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