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Isolation and Feeling Like an Outcast in St Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves

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In this essay, this writer will attempt to compare and contrast the topics of isolation and feelings of being an outcast that many young people feel during their journey” to adulthood. In both “St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves” by Karen Russell and in The Faery Handbag” by Kelly Link, these topics are apparent. For example, in “St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves” “The themes of her stories are very real. The title story might be a fantasy account of the historical treatment of the children of aboriginal peoples in schools in which they were ‘tamed’ and taught to despise the ways of their parents and ancestors. It is also a story of children or young people ganging up on each other…. Isolated or outcast children form a common motif throughout the collection” (Inlitero 2). In ‘The Faery Handbag,” critics have said, “Her stories are about more than strangeness, more than the fantastic—they’re about inclusion, diversity, and acceptance of alternate world views (2).”

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In the story ‘The Faery Handbag” the author emphasizes this theme on a minor character named Jake. Kelly Link describes a detail of him and how smart he is. He was so smart that he was moved a few grades up and this made him not like the others, an outcast, which caused him to be bullied. Eventually, his mother had to pull him out of school when he was going to be expelled. After being homeschooled for two years, Jake returned to school because his mother had cancer. The author mentions in the story that Jake is still very much smarter than the kids in his class, but he now has learned “how to fit in” (Link/Statues 2). Although he has learned how to fit in with the kids in school there is never any mention of friends: male or females other than Genevieve. It appears that he is isolated and only enjoys being with Genevieve. There is also a suspicious attempt of suicide on Jakes part in the school pool. Jake was found in time, therefore, was not successful in this attempt to end his life. This possible attempt just shows his emotional state and how he is really coping socially now that he was back in school. Perhaps his isolation at school and the death of his mother caused such grief that Jake wanted to die.

Although being very intelligent, Jake’s letter of acceptance letter to attend MIT is withdrawn after the university finds out about his attempted suicide incident in the pool. He is also expelled from school after the pool incident. Jake is now the smartest kid in his class but is now a drop out and works a basic job at the movie theater. He is at this point over life itself and is willing to take any chance of leaving his life if he got it, which he did. He saw the handbag as his way out. After being told about this bag, Jake did not hesitate to disappear into the handbag where he was never seen again.

“St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves” portrays a story of how children that don’t fit in are forced to become something they are not. “Over the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the mad, the infectious, the deviant and the unfit were categorized and confined to a widening range of isolated places and institutions. There they were subjected to treatment that spanned correction, care and control. Through these practices state agencies and expert authorities refined their efforts to classify and coercively segregate people deemed to be undesirable or dangerous” (Strange and Bashford 1). Although the girls were not sick or infectious, throughout the entire story there are many examples of correction, care and control in this story. They were forced to become what women were supposed to be. Mirabella was one of the girls that fought change and wanted to remain who she was. Mirabella was the youngest sister of Janette and Claudette. Throughout the story the Nuns are trying to conform the feral kids into young women. Mirabella never seems to be able to conform to their ways. She still acts wild or feral by wanting to eat the ducks they were feeding, refusing to only walk on two legs and not learning English. There were many other things that made her an outcast which isolated her from the other girls. Eventually this causes to be banned from St Lucy’s Home.

Another example of being isolated was Janette. Although Janette was advancing much quicker than the other girls, she was somewhat isolated from the others because of this. Her sister Claudette and all the others were envious of her. Because she seemed to have no problem developing more human characteristics and, her quick ability to speak English isolated her to own “perfect” world. Being different or smarter that the others, she was unable to communicate effectively with the other girls. The pack was always frustrated with how Janette would always show off when doing something they were unable to do or unable to do perfect like her. Although Janette might not have felt like she was isolated or an outcast, she was due to the fact that she did not associate herself or socialize much with the others.

In both stories there are characters that are having difficulty fitting into a socially accepted sameness in society. When one studies both short stories, no matter when they were written, one can see relevance to school life in our modern society. For example, in schools there are children that appear to be different either it be from disability or culture differences. These children are often bullied and made to feel that somehow, they don’t belong in school. Jake would be a good example of this as well as Mirabella. If we look in schools today, we have children who attempt suicide or get suspended many times or are expelled from school permanently because of acting out behavior. The Nuns from St. Lucy’s viewed the girls as not quite human and used bullying to make all of girls conform to behavior that they believed was socially acceptable traits of how a woman should act.

It seems that in each story each character that felt isolated had a different ending or outcome. Jake “disappeared” into the handbag while Mirabella was banned from the home for not conforming to the Nuns’ ways. Jannette on the other hand, was perfect in the eyes of the Nuns. This is like modern day isolation of children in schools. Some that feel isolated feel the need to no longer exist in life and try to end it. Other children are tested and then moved into separate special education classrooms. We tell students who will not conform that they are no longer welcome. Isolation and those feelings that you don’t fit in stay with you and eventually affects self- esteem.

Both stories have children as the main characters. When you read both short stories you can understand the children’s world. Even though most readers have not been raised by “wolves” or have direct connections to “faeries,” the readers get it! We can relate to the feelings of the characters. 

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