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Fifth Child By Lessing

In “The Fifth Child,” Lessing contrasts society’s idea of an “ideal”
family to the “real” dysfunctional family in our everyday lives. Harriet and
David’s dream was to have the “ideal” family. They made the mistake of
setting standards too high for themselves and putting a front of an ideal
family, which was just a cover for the real dysfunctional one. People in society
tend to believe that the ideal family is what life is all about. They believe
that as long as they can obtain the ideal family, this will bring them
happiness. The reality is that this perfect family structure isn’t obtainable.

Bridget, for instance, comes from a dysfunctional family and goes to stay with
Harriet and David’s family to get a taste of their “ideal” family. Even
the family realizes that Bridget longs for this feeling of family togetherness.

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“Bridget has to be told by you hat she is welcome.” She does not realize
that Harriet and David’s ideal family is just a picture they painted so others
could believe this it is ideal. The picture they painted is of a big house, lots
of kids, and big family parties. This doesn’t necessarily mean that this is a
happy family. David comes from what is thought of as the ideal family. He had
everything anyone could ever ask for. Although, his parents were divorced, no
one was ever around for him, and he set himself in solitude. “My room-that was
home.” The “ideal” family that turned out to be the dysfunctional family;
is what this is all about. The idea of a perfect family is the dream of a
dysfunctional family. Harriet has a strong belief in this also; she and
David’s dreams create her ideas of the ideal family. Their dreams and wishes
are irrational; they are what they want in life. Dorothy describes Harriet as
having “eyes bigger than her stomach.” Harriet wants more than what she can
handle. She does not realize that what she wishes for cannot come true. Harriet
and David cannot fulfill their fantasies; their idea of an ideal family cannot
be created. Families aren’t meant to be ideal; they are dysfunctional. All
families have problems. This is what life is all about. Life isn’t always what
you want but what you put into it.


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