Masaryk University Faculty of Arts Department of English and American Studies


Fyfield’s Womanly Sufferer and Criminal



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4.4Fyfield’s Womanly Sufferer and Criminal


Fyfield’s view of women and their relations to men sets a slightly different notion which makes females rather criminals than the victims. This author’s novel discussed focuses on the different women roles in society and in their individual relationships. The female protagonist in the novel explored works as the Crown Prosecutor, whose area is battered and unfortunate women suffering from domestic violence. Helen’s friend, Emily, recommends her to hire her own cleaning lady called Cath to brighten and help her in the ordinary and stereotyped life. Cath becomes a driving force in Helen’s life since “Mary Catherine, known as Cath … had also turned Helen’s flat into a different version of itself over the last week or two” (CC 500). After employing Cath, Helen slowly comes to the conclusion out that her cleaning lady is also a most probable victim of domestic violence. Helen starts worrying about Cath after talking to Emily. It is Emily who spots Cath’s injury first: “Cath, what’s that bruise on your arm? You didn’t have that yesterday, did you? It looks jolly sore...” (CC 504) but the poor girl feels uneasy speaking about her personal problems and makes up a story which explains her injury that happened while cleaning at Helen’s bathroom. This behavior is usual for such women who rarely admit domestic violence; they avoid talking about their hostile environment at home and want to seem strong and brave by hiding the reality. The truth is, of course, revealed when Helen and Emily discuss their common cleaning woman. Helen, the Prosecutor thus confirms her hypothesis when Cath escapes from her husband Joe to stay alone in her brother’s place even though the womanly sufferer never openly acknowledges her abuse. However, her case is far more complicated.

Cath represents one of many victimized women, abused by their husbands or boyfriends that Helen gets to know while interrogating them, “the type of battered wife who goes on claiming love, ignoring the cut-off point, leaves, returns, leaves and returns until she is finally carried away in a coffin. And then the man pleads he was provoked” (CC 598). She experiences one explicit case at the court with a woman who finally reports against her husband before it is too late. The victim speaks about her partner coming back home late at night and wanting something to eat; she admits he hit her because there was no food in the house and he got angry. When asked to be more specific, the woman suddenly gains more confidence: “He… he head-butted me. You know, bashed his head into my face. I felt my nose go, there was blood everywhere, I started screaming and the baby woke up …” (CC 509). She speaks so fast that they must slow her down to be able to record everything. The head-butted woman decides to call the police when her husband starts eating the baby’s food. That is the moment when she hates him not because he touched and bashed her, but since her baby is in danger. Cath is very cautious when it encompasses the baby since she has a well-stocked memory which reminds her of Damien.

Damien Flood is Cath’s brother who she loves on the one hand, but on the other her relationship with Damien becomes again more complicated as well as Cath’s character in the novel. Joe describes Damien as “a real trial [to Cath]. Needed looking after every day of his life. Always on the scrounge for money, always in trouble with law, drunk as a skunk” (CC 474). Damien plays the role of the killed victim in the text and everything that is mentioned on his account it is through either Cath, or Joe. Cath and Damien had more than a sister-and-brother relationship which makes Cath to hate him and her anger is muted inside her. Joe views Cath and Damien as a loving sibling pair although he assumes there appears a deeper union between the two of them. Once Joe comes home and since he cannot stand anymore Damien’s pictures because of jealousy and hatred. “He picked up first photograph, gazed at it briefly and tore it in half, put the two pieces together neatly and tore it again. Then he took a lighter from his pocket and holding the other photograph, held the flame to the corners” (CC 506-7). While destroying the picture in the flame, he gets burnt his thumb but he forgets about his pain since he is full of grudge and loathing. He feels inferior next to Damien’s image and wants to be the only man for Cath, desires Cath to love him best.

Cath openly talks about her love to Damien. When she escapes from her husband, Mickey Gut visits her to tell her that Joe needs her and she cannot stay by her own and their discussion finally leads to Damien. Mickey purposely strives to look like a friend and she expresses her affection towards Damien: “I was Damien’s friend. I loved that bloke, Cath. Just like you,” which strikes Cath’s ears and she thinks that “no-one had loved Damien as she had done” (CC 567) which exactly defines the love-hate relationship between Cath and Damien. The true story about Damien and Cath is revealed when Ryan, Detective Constable, comes to the Spoon and Fiddle and talks to Damien himself: “She got pregnant, right? Went wrong, it died. ’Course I didn’t know till after I married the bitch, did I? Well, I knew she’d got this scar on her belly, an’ I knew she wasn’t no virgin bride, who wants one?” (CC 576). Cath’s husband knows about their relationship and about the baby that was Damien’s and how the scar on her belly appeared and, therefore, he hates his brother-in-law so much.

The scar plays a very significant role in Cath’s life and draws a close connection to her brother. Cath sees the scar as ugly, puckering, and disfiguring her body forever, even more it reminds her of her humiliation and weakness:

I loved him. Or at least, I sort of loved him. Only there’s a grief and grief, if you see what I mean. I loved Damien, you see. I loved him to pieces. I couldn’t have loved anyone else like that. He gets me pregnant, leaves me in the club, lets me get on with it, I lose the baby and get this sodding great scar. I can cope with that, at the time, anyway, see? Though you can never look at yourself at the same way again. You aren’t worth shit with a belly like mine. (CC 652).


The way a scar develops and affects one’s life depends as much on how your body adjusts to such an imperfection. Many scars that appear ugly and unattractive at first may become less noticeable with time which can be applied to the person’s character. Someone gets along with it and someone fails to cope with it. Cath must always keep in mind that her scar can hardly be removed completely and she desires her revenge. If she cannot get rid of her disfigurement she eliminates the factors that caused her troubles. Cath has something in common with Helen, the female protagonist, who is also marked on her forehead which might seem even more visible than a scar on a belly. Therefore, Cath has a sufficient reason to tolerate Helen since she knows a lot about scars when she meets her for the first time and sees her scar in the middle of her forehead. Cath is curious and while cleaning at Helen’s house, she asks one day where she got her scar and she receives a straight forward answer: “I bumped into something” (CC 612). The two women have a mutual respect towards each other and the independence and determination connect them together in their own fates on the one hand, but on the other, Cath represents a wicked woman who hides her hatred and dissatisfaction. Her experience taught her to be detached from any male help and that she must solve her own problems by herself without being dependent on anyone. Her displeasure caused by the scar and the inner grudge against her brother and husband contributes to her becoming the culprit.



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