The Loss of Trust and Identity
A person’s trust is something that is coveted by many and seldom gained. Stability in mind and body may often be determined on the ability of an individual to trust someone and handle their dependency. There is a prime example of this scenario in the play My Sister in This House , when the Lutton sisters first interact with each other at the Danzard’s. When Lea says to Christine “Tell me. You’re always keeping something from me. Tell me (10)”, it suggests that Christine’s trust in anyone including her sister, is dwindling. The progression of Christine’s breakdown starts right at the beginning of the play and finally unfolds when she loses faith in herself and can only depend on her sister. As a result, she is pushed over the edge and commits the murder.
In reading the play a side note says that Christine “turns away (10)”, an indication that she feels her detachment from her sister and cannot bear to even look at her. A few lines later Christine says “I said that till you learned, you had to have someone to protect you (10).” Lea replies with “And that was you. That was you. Am I right Christine (10)?” Just as Lea goes to hug Christine, Christine turns away and mutters “The room’s cold (10)”. Cold like her heart is growing each day because of her lack of trust and her ailing dependency. It seems that she cannot even trust her own mother to take care of her little sister, and the weight of the responsibility in looking after Lea is sometimes hard to bear. The reoccurring “cold” references appear often in the beginning to give the reader that dark, solitude, and inner loneliness feel. This goes hand in hand with her losing her sense of identity, and questioning whom she can trust. After waking up one morning, Lea sits up out of her bed and says “It’s freezing in here. Is it always like this (14)?” Christine replies sharply with “Always (14)” Lea “Everywhere you’ve been (14)?” Again sharply, “Everywhere (14)” It didn’t take much for Wendy Kessleman to get her point when she was wrote this play. Everywhere, including the nunnery she attended when she was a little girl. The same nunnery in which a nun whom she loved so dear, turned her back to Christine and didn’t either bother to look back.
Lea is the centerpiece of Christine’s life right now. She is the only thing Christine can hold on to that has some stability. When Christine loses that edge, each time she loses a bit of herself. These two sisters have been “bound in blood (16)” since a very young age and the absence of a concrete authority/mother figure have given both of them a false sense of reality of what a normal life should be like. Lea is put in the position of building up her sister as a means of avoiding conflict many times throughout the play. One of these instances is when she is reading a letter that their mother sent them, and Christine ends up showing her aggression. She says, “If we didn’t go back we could have all our Sundays together, just to ourselves. We could walk, we could go the train station and watch the trains come in. We could sit in the square, we could – But no – you wouldn’t want that would you? You want to go back. Don’t you? Don’t you, Lea? (26)?” Again, Christine is questioning the stability of the trust and loyalty they have with each other by calling her out and having her make decision on the spot as to what she wants to do. Christine needs instant gratification in knowing that her sister is still on her side. “I’m a monster aren’t I? Just like she says. (26)” To smooth out the tone, Lea says “You’re not a monster. (27)” Christine, “What did you mean when you said my face was beautiful? (27)” Lea, “What I said. (27)” Christine, “What’s beautiful about it? Tell me one thing. (27)” Lea, “Your eyes. (27)” This exchange reveals how much Christine relies on her sister to be her mental and emotional balance in life, and that trust is a good thing to have. As times have shown in the past, relationships with siblings and with parental units are very influential in the development of the mind and establishing an identity. We can see the repercussions of neglecting a young child. Eventually, the lack of affection and unconditional love transpires into a horrible tragic outcome which could have been prevented earlier in life.
For Christine, there is a struggle with a desire to grasp an identity. During the scene where the Luttons are getting their picture taken, the photographer says that they “look like twins” (37) he corrects himself and says “No, not twins. But sisters. Sisters certainly. Such a resemblance. (37)” In response, Christine says “We’re not twins. I’m six years older than my sister. (37)” Why does she feel the need to emphasize that she is six years older than her sister? She is struggling with her identity and must reaffirm and continue to let people, but mostly herself know who she thinks she is. When in actuality, she doesn’t have a clue. In scene ten Christine comforts Lea after she has a nightmare about someone chasing her. The fact that it is a female who is chasing her and she has “little bones (47)” suggests that this dream is about Isabelle. Here we see the one of the catalysts involved in the drama of being able to be trusted. Lea asks Christine “You won’t ever leave me, will you, Christine? (48) Christine never answers and only responds with singing “Sleep my Little Sister Sleep”. The feeling of a sense of belonging is present in this scene. It is as though Christine is getting a confirmation of her role in Lea’s life, but it still stays in the back of her mind that she was dreaming about Isabelle. On page 54, Christine is about to be pushed over the edge by Mrs. Danzard when she criticizes Christine’s hemming. Out of nowhere she lashes out at Lea and says “Even if she goes, you won’t go. Lea! You’re thinking about it all the time aren’t you? That’s why you’re always dreaming. Why you’re always off in that other world. (54)” Christine is feeling that she is losing an important part of herself to Isabelle and becomes jealous and scared at the same time. She says “You’re all I have, little Lea. All I’ll ever have. Sometimes I think we’ll never have enough time. (55)” Christine will never have time to figure out who she can fully trust and her true feelings about her sister.
The end result is the death of their boss, Madam Danzard and her daughter, Isabelle. Christine became so fed up with trying to cope with everything and figuring out who she really was, that she just eliminated all doubt and suspicions by killing them. Kesselman shows us that when you are in threat to lose something, mainly your identity, the world as you know it changes drastically. Trust and dependence is an important part of anyone’s development, but once you have it, you are not guaranteed it to be there forever. It is vital that one must at all times be in control of themselves and their destiny, it is not healthy to get lost in the tricks that you mind play on you when you hold on to the past.
“My Sister in This House” by Wendy Kesselman