Due to the lack of traditional forms of love in Esch’s life, I’m finding it interesting to watch the ways she navigates that whole sphere of life.
Clearly her relationship with Manny is not a healthy one. Yet because he pays attention to her in a (purely) sexual manner, she gets the impression that a deeper relationship could form (even though he’s not really even paying attention to her in a sexual manner. He’s paying attention to what her body can do for him). The lack of outright romantic love in Esch’s life prevents her from having a background knowledge to know the signs of a healthy relationship and the those of an unhealthy one.
The relationship with Skeetah is an interesting one. The amount of attention she spends on him and his body far exceeds the time spent on everyone else. We discussed in a previous class that Ward was influenced in her writing style by Faulkner, so I don’t feel that it is a big leap to suggest that Ward could also have picked up on some of his themes, namely that of incest. In The Sound and the Fury * fixates on his sister Caddie for the vast majority of his chapter. This has lead a number of critics to draw the conclusion that this fixation is a form of incest. Therefore, the predominant fixation of Esch on Skeet is also a form of incest. Its actually a really interesting inversion of gender norms that Ward does with this relationship. Esch spends a lot of time paying attention to Skeet’s body and how it moves, much in the same way that women’s bodies are paid attention to closely and objectified. So this way its the woman who is in power, judging the other gender’s body and importance. Its still not a good thing, but I think it runs along the same lines as equating mythology to a black character and creating a dialogue with it that didn’t otherwise exist.
And finally Big Henry. If this were another kind of novel, I would probably speculate that the two of them would end up together. While Esh doesn’t fixate on him much, especially in comparison to the other guys I mention in this post, what we do see of him is very caring and gentle. He pays particular attention to Esch and her unspoken needs.