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A childhood of drama and distortion
on January 17, 2004
Scofield's memoir deals almost exclusively with her childhood years, when, as a young child, she develops only a vague sense of the boundaries between her mother and herself. The mother, Edith Hupp, has no such clear perspective, her malleable young daughter almost more a companion than a child. Because of Edith's manipulation, Sandra sees herself differently than others, not bound by the same rules. Years later, after Edith's death, Scofield describes her life as "navigating chaos without any reliable compass."
The whole family lives with the maternal grandmother during the earliest years of Edith's illness, when she still has her looks and occasional periods of health. Conversion to Catholicism creates another strong bond between Edith and Sandra, as the legends and rituals of her new religion captivate the child, who claims it with innocent zeal. Thereafter, Sandra dedicates her young life to emulating the saints. The tragedy of Edith's long journey toward death has a profound affect on the child, who develops nervous habits, praying incessantly. In her childish naiveté, Sandra fervently prays that her mother won't die.
Little girls are given to excessive drama, with their impressionable minds, especially fed on a steady diet of religious fervor. I was one of these little girls. I recall the same distorted thought process when praying, as if God was mine alone: a basic misunderstanding of the nature of prayer. I used this flawed perspective, as does Scofield, where God becomes Prince Charming, to "rescue you not from death, but from anonymity". Also of note, is the particular innocence of the 1950's, the perfect breeding ground for Catholic girls.
Most of Scofield's formative years are solitary, hours of thorough convent education, along with intermittent visits to an ever more sickly mother. Through this distorted framework, a distant father and a grandmother often at odds with her daughter do little to alleviate the child's loneliness. Edith finally dies from chronic nephritis, after years of hospital stays and shock treatments, but Scofield has no basis for structuring a life to serve her best interests.
Soon after the death, Scofield suffers a traumatic incident that strips away her innocence, an already shaky persona shattered... and so ends the memoir. Although this memoir is decidedly purgative, there is no way to ascertain the author's approach to adulthood. Confused by a dysfunctional home life and excessive religious instruction, the sheltered existence has only served to cripple Sandra in her dealings with the world at large.
Original Sin is a portrayal of Scofield's life, Part One, but the memoir begs completion. Scofield has survived, but is she emotionally crippled by her early years? I am, after all, unsatisfied. There is closure to the past, but what of the present? Luan Gaines/2004.