Where’d you Bernadette by Maria Semple is a novel about a woman who has a daughter and a husband. She seems to be a weird person at the beginning, but as the story goes through you find out why is acting that way. She ends up by going away and leaving her family, but at the end everything gets together again. Maria Semple likes to compare family’s issues because in the entire book is writing about how the characters interact between them. Although, Semple seems to be a sophisticated author, the role of mother in WDYB is the biggest topic to analyze on the full story.
On this novel there are several mothers who can be examples of the types of motherhoods. Bernadette’s motherhood can be the easiest example to notice in the whole novel. Bernadette is an unquestionably strange woman that her role of mother is definitely not an exception of her craziness. Even though Bernadette is an exceptional mother at the eyes of Bee (her daughter), she does weird things to keep her daughter safe. For instance, in the scene when Bernadette goes to pick up Bee at the Galer Street School, when she evidently passes over Audrey’s foot.
It was clear that she just wanted to pick up her daughter, but eventually the fact that she hurts someone makes her seem crazy. Bernadette loves too much her daughter; we can definitely see it in the entire novel. When Bee was born with her heart issues and Bernadette went to the incubator because she was all worried about it, there is one verse that Bernadette says “I will never build again” she said to God. “I will renounce my other sixteen visions if you’ll keep my baby alive” (131). She means that because of the eighteen visions that St. Bernadette got.
Bee gets better as the time passes and now she is a super intelligent girl. The motherhood of Bernadette is a marvelous example for her daughter, but not for the society in general. She wants to be always with her daughter even though she leaves her at the middle of the story. When Bernadette knows that Bee is moving to the boarding school, she states “I’m going to move to Wallingford and rent a house off campus. I already got a job working in the Choate dining hall” (31). Bernadette wants to go everywhere with Bee, so she can protect her. She is kind of the overprotected mother.
Audrey’s motherhood is not an argument to skip in this novel. I see definitely Audrey’s motherhood as the ordinary mother that wants to look like she is the best mom in the world. She pretends to know everything about her son, despite, she doesn’t know anything about him. Her son takes drugs and he sales them at the school although consistently are Audrey’s own medication. For example, when the Gwen Goodyear, the principal of Galer Street, calls Audrey to go to her office to talk in private. Audrey goes into, and she finds out that Kyle (her son) is there.
The principal wants to tell Audrey that in the locker of her controversial son was a bottle of medicine. Gwen asks questions about how he could get that bottle. But as a typical mother, she is just defending Kyle with the answer that it was her medicine from the car accident with Bernadette. Audrey just acts and assumes that her son is outstanding and she states, “Now that I write this, I’d like to know what Gwen Goodyear was doing in Kyle’s locker room. Don’t they have locks on them? Isn’t that why they’re called lockers? ” (59). Audrey wants to give the impression that is a caring mother and wife.
In my point of view, Audrey just wants to socialize and gossip about the other moms in Galer Street, including Bernadette. She is always sending emails to the other moms in the school board. She is pretending that she is helping the school, when actually she is just making gossip around moms. Soo-Lin Lee-Segal is another mom who is too influential in WDYB. This woman is another of the “gnats” as Bernadette called them. Soo-Lin motherhood doesn’t seem so affected as a result of the fact that she gets pregnant at the climax of the story.
She is an undoubtedly experienced woman who appreciates to work and be the best assistant for her boss, Elgin Branch. She is just the common divorced woman who tries to continue with her life and her son. She doesn’t display too much interest on his son, but she is always in contact with the school board and she is always emailing Audrey. Both of them are always gossiping about Bernadette’s life and her husband. Motherhood is the central topic to talk about WDYB, nevertheless, the roles of fathers are a mark to consider too. The fathers of this narrative, I don’t find them as the best illustration of an acceptable dad.
In one hand, we see Elgin, the dad of Bee, who it seems like he literally loves her, but he doesn’t presents caring about her. Elgin works and works to give what Bee needs, but at the same time it looks like he just works too deeply, so he can be less time at home in company with Bernadette. When all the disappearing event of Bernadette happened, Bee confronts her dad and she says, “I know why it’s so convenient for you if Mom killed herself. Because you were cheating on her, and it gets you off the hook because you can go, Blah, blah blah, she was crazy all along” (273).
Bee knows that her father is not exactly the perfect person in her life. On the other hand, we see Audrey’s husband that he is an alcoholic and doesn’t get involved with his son at all. I consider that maybe that could be the reason why Kyle is such a troublemaker, his dad is the same way. Also, the ex-husband of Soo-Lin Lee-Segal that just got divorced at the beginning of the story and he does not show any interest on his son either. For example, when Soo-Lin Lee-Segal gets pregnant by Elgin, that event just makes him see a worst dad.
Even though it seems like Elgin does not love Bernadette, he can show respect for the mom of her daughter at least. I realize the idea of Semple is to make emphasis on how mothers are so much important in the whole story. Semple empathizes in motherhood more than anything in the story. Bernadette’s motherhood is the main example of that. Bernadette motherhood pattern seems to be way better than the other moms in the book by the positive attitude of Bee. In resume the roles of mom are too way crucial than any other role in WDYB.