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Beyond the Bedroom Wall: A Family Album Analysis Paper The family relationships in Larry Woiwode s Beyond the Bedroom Wall: A Family Album are illustrated in such a way that the reader is able to believe that they are in fact reading about a real family. The subtitle, A Family Album is actually a stronger summation of the novel, more clearly hinting toward the contents and main story of the book. The individuals that compose the diverse parts of the Neumiller family are all uniquely different, however, they all share an unbreakable bond in being a part of the same family. The relationships that shape the story, and are of great importance to the story of the Neumiller family, are the relationships between the brothers and sisters. These somewhat abnormal, though loving, relationships appear to have the greatest effect on the development of the individual characters throughout the novel. The first brother-sister relationship that Woiwode reveals to the reader is that of Charles and Augustina Neumiller.
The reader first sees into their relationship at the funeral and burial of their father, Otto Neumiller in the opening chapter of the novel, The Burial. The deep care that they have for each other is evident in their interactions. When Charles first arrives to the Neumiller family farm and sees Augustina waiting for him, he notices her bedraggled form and he was hurt by how she d aged, and by her lack of concern about her appearance (30). Charles seems to desire only the best for his sister; it seems through his actions that he loves her unconditionally, as a brother should. He stepped onto the porch and took her in his arms (30). However, as is true throughout the story, there are hints of strange behaviors, strange thought and actions that occur between brother and sister.
Charles, after embracing Augustina, gives audience to some rather odd thoughts about his sister. Her body beneath the dress was surprisingly feminine, frail yet full, her breasts large and full against him, and he realized how easily she could have married (30). There is something that feels strange and abnormal about those thoughts coming from a brother, although Charles is not alone, as several other brothers and sisters have similarly sexually related, emotional views of their siblings. The relationship between Alpha Neumiller (Jones) and her brother, Jerome Jones, was a relationship that played a large role in the formation of Alpha s character.
Alpha and Jerome were extremely close, even though Jerome was four years younger than Alpha. Alpha and Jerome became close because their mother, Mrs. Jones, was ill much of the time and Alpha had a huge role in raising Jerome. Alpha was maternal toward him, but always spoke to him and of him in a straightforward and womanly, wife like way (85).
Alpha did not treat Jerome in a kindly, sisterly way; their relationship was of a more intense and adult nature, its characteristics ranging from motherly to an almost sexual sounding feminine or womanly relation. The five children of Martin and Alpha Neumiller also have extraordinarily atypical sibling relationships. Tim, Jerome, Charles, Marie, and Susan interact in ways that can be classified as uncharacteristic of most sibling relationships. At one point in the novel, Tim and Charles are with their sisters, Marie and Susan in a meadow. Tim asks Charles, Do you want to tweakle and futz around with their little whistle holes? (373). When the boys try to get the girls to come along with them, saying that they will show the girls their trails, Susan speaks out and says Sure, then after that you ll try and make us take our pants down! Then you ll try and do stuff to our bottoms again! (373).
Marie, however, says, Oh, come on, and goes on crawling after Charles, as if desires sexual interactions with him. After they tweakle and futz all four of the children go running off toward the house, where none of this has happened, as if it was not real because it did not happen between the four walls of the Neumiller house. Once again, when the children are older, around the time of their Grandfather s death, there is another unique interaction, this time between Jerome and Charles. All of the children are having a difficult time dealing with the death of their grandfather, but Charles in particular seems to be struggling more emotionally than the others are. At one point, Charles crawls into bed with Jerome, and Jerome, on his side, his hand still on the floor, swung his ass toward him, a position he d had complications about, and kicked back his leg, and Charles wrapped both of his around it and dropped an arm across him. He could feel against his thigh Charles s erection grow and throb with his blood beat (500).
The boys are both college-aged young men. This interaction is exceptionally disturbing simply because of their age. Even though they are grown up, they are acting as they did as small children. It was how they d slept together in the double bed In this bed when it was in their room in the house in Hyatt (500). Later in the lives of the Neumiller children, when they are all together again for the funeral of Laura, Martin Neumiller s second wife, Marie questions Charles about the propriety of their behavior as children, and the two siblings have an exchange regarding their behavior. Marie asks, Remember all that stuff we used to do as kids? Wasn t it awful? As if she want Charles to somehow justify their actions, which he does.
Oh, I don t know. I heard somewhere that it happens in about sixty to seventy percent of families where the boys and girls are anywhere close in age. He d heard this from his analyst. I think it s something you grow out of (602). The relationships between the siblings in this novel were foreign to me, difficult to understand in the sexual aspect, because they are certainly different from my own feelings and experiences with and toward my siblings. I believe that there may have been some void in the lives of the Neumiller children that caused them to have sexual ideas about one another.
It almost seemed to me that they were looking for an intimate kind of love that was not being provided through their parents. The relationships between the siblings in the novel, although atypical, did help to develop the characters in the novel to a greater degree. The relationships allow the reader to see into the psyche of the characters, creating a greater sense of reality throughout the novel. The Neumiller family album allows the reader to get a glimpse into the closet where the skeletons hide.
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