Award Date

5-2011

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in English

Department

English

First Committee Member

Anne Stevens, Chair

Second Committee Member

Richard Wiley

Third Committee Member

Megan Becker-Leckrone

Graduate Faculty Representative

Lynn Comella

Number of Pages

202

Abstract

This creative dissertation is a fabulist and satirical novel. The book follows the story of main character and narrator Earleen, an atypical and hyper-intelligent sixteen-year-old who continues to be traumatized by her sociopathic father even after he dies. A self-taught bookworm born in the early 1980s, her formative years were spent trapped inside her parents' rural methamphetamine cookhouse. When her parents blow up inside their house during a drug-manufacturing incident on the eve of Earleen's early adolescence, she finds herself in the arms of an affluent adoptive couple (Dennis Stark, a fertility specialist, and his homemaker wife Beverly) who have been unable to conceive. Her presence is an unwelcome addition to Dennis's mother, who is a mute stroke victim and was formerly the couple's coddled center of attention.

Throughout her childhood, Earleen had a tumultuous relationship with her reckless father (known as "Pops"), whose drug-addled paranoia often resulted in her abuse and torture. Although Earleen's mother never reappears to haunt her after the explosion, Pops' spirit is determined to find a way to get back to Earth and rejoin the living. He frequently visits Earleen — his ghost can return through the medium of liquid, and he's convinced she's the only one who can help him get back.

Though no longer starved and stabbed, Earleen is still invisible and voiceless in her new home. Her adoptive mother Beverly values Earleen only as a path to grandchildren and is disappointed Earleen doesn't share her obsession with outward beauty. Dennis and Beverly live in total ignorance of Earleen's hauntings, although Dennis' mother seems to detect something amiss.

Dismayed by the social aspects of school, Earleen graduates early in order to take on secretarial work at Dennis' fertility clinic. Her father's ghost, which is growing weaker but also more desperate and therefore dangerous, decides that this is his ticket back to life: he is convinced he can enter into a donor sample just as he can enter other liquid, and hypothesizes that if Earleen impregnates herself with the sample, he can be reborn. Although Earleen doesn't want to help him or to have him back among the living, she is afraid of him, and he threatens the safety of her new family if she doesn't obey. Earleen chooses a donor and successfully impregnates herself, but weeks later she runs into the unknowing donor at the store and agrees to go on a date with him.

A relationship begins, and Earleen finds herself in the precarious situation of carrying the baby of a man who doesn't know she's pregnant, doesn't know it's by his sperm, and has never slept with her. Worse yet, though Huckle soon shows himself to be self-absorbed and misogynistic, Earleen never seems to have a say in how quickly their relationship is moving forward.

Inside a barn during a storm, she gives birth to an inky creature that crawls into the rain. Yet once born, her father does not stay away and leave her alone as promised. His development is not going as planned, and each year of his new life seems to make him weaker rather than stronger. When Earleen becomes a young bride and gets pregnant, Pops returns wanting to overtake the fetus and be reborn once more in the hopes that the process will be more successful the second time around. She must find a way to protect herself from Pops and cut him off from the living world.

Keywords

Adult child abuse victims; Adopted children; Fathers and daughters; Feminism; Fertilization in vitro; Human; Fiction; Gender; Ghosts; Haunting; Pregnancy

Disciplines

American Literature | Literature in English, North America

Language

English


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