Rosemary and the Image of God

You were brought up to work—not especially to marry. Now you’ve found your first nut to crack, and it’s a good nut—go ahead and put whatever happens down to experience. Wound yourself or him—whatever happens it can’t spoil you because economically you’re a boy, not a girl.

Tender is the Night p. 40

Here’s another example of how wrong it is for Rosemary to trust her mother’s “sheath of armor.” On the surface it looks like Mrs. Speers is 100 years ahead of her time, but she’s not flattening out the male/female distinctions like our culture, saying there is no difference. She’s highlighting a difference that doesn’t actually exist: In a sense she’s saying that men, because they were made to work, can’t be hurt in relationships, and in that sense, Rosemary is a man. She’s certainly wrong on both counts here—as we’ll see in both Rosemary’s and Dick’s lives. 

Because both male and female are created in God’s image, there are characteristics that we both share. For our purposes here, both Rosemary and Dick need to learn to love, and they both long to be loved, and both will be hurt as they are loved imperfectly. But because God made humans male and female, we do have differences. We both will bear God’s image differently in character and in proscription. Men are different from women. We are each made with differing gifts and talents and bring different blessings to family, community, and culture. That is why children (both boys and girls) need a mother and father. This is not rocket science but neither can it be disproven by anecdotal evidence: “Well, I knew a kid who … .” Life in the midst of the fall doesn’t work that way. There are intact dysfunctional families and thriving children in single-parent homes. But the exceptions do not nullify the rule—or the way things are supposed to be. 

Mrs. Speers is handicapping Rosemary—and purposefully driving a wedge into relationships she has no business being a part of—all so her daughter can gain experience. Yet we certainly can’t conclude that all mom’s are evil just because Mrs. Speers is. We know—at least I hope we know—that Mrs. Speers’s mothering is cruel. I hope we can recognize that this is not the way it is supposed to be. But I’m sure Mrs. Speers has close friends who think all is fine. May we not be duped by the familiar, and may we look to a more solid foundation than a movie star’s mom by which we make decisions. 

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