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D.H. Lawrence's The daughter-in-law: Transforming a family system

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D.H. Lawrence's play The daughter-in-law, written in 1912, explores underlying, implicit conflict within a family. Set in a small mining town in England, the family consists of Mrs. Gascoyne, her sons Luther and Joe, and her daughter-in-law, Minnie, Luther's wife. The central conflict is between Mrs. Gascoyne and Minnie, who challenges her mother-in-law's control over her sons, who also compete with each other for the love and recognition of their mother. Joe, the youngest son, perturbs the family system and acts as a mediator, functioning as a family therapist. He sets a process in motion through which the rigid family alliances are challenged and ultimately realigned. Mrs. Gascoyne's self-image as a perfect, self-sacrificing, self-righteous mother ultimately is transformed, and she accepts Minnie as a family member. Brandchaft's concept of “pathological accommodation” explicates how enmeshed family members can collide, and thereby stultify their personal development. As Joe plays his role of “family therapist,” the family dynamic changes. Through the process of rupture and repair, each family member begins to recognize the needs of the other, and thereby a path for differentiation, individuation, and autonomy becomes possible for them.
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Keywords: attachment; autonomy; empathy; family therapist; pathological accommodation; recognition; responsibility

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2011

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