The Fifth Child
The Fifth Child contains many different themes pertaining to family dynamics and child development. The novel focuses on the relationships between two parents and their five children and how those relationships come to change at the point of conception of the fifth child. Harriet and David had always envisioned having a large family together which enticed them into buying a large Victorian house with an overgrown garden. This was a strange decision for a young couple but they desired lots of children and never knew at what number child they would commence. Their first four children brought joy and warmth into their home only to be extinguished by the evil that surrounded their fifth child named Ben.
Lessing’s short novel haunts me in the way of having a deeply disquieting or disturbing effect. The character of Ben is the portion of the novel that I find to be the most haunting because of his attributes and the effect that he had on his once happy family. Ben haunted me from the beginning when he was described in the womb until the end when he became part of the teenage gang. Ben is described as a monster with cold inhuman eyes, unbelievable strength, and uncontrollable rage. He caused his mother great physical and emotional pain and was never loved by his father or his siblings. In fact he was feared by all who came to know of him and it was inevitable that he would cause harm thus providing a need to be sedated, bound, and locked away from everyone
. The language that Doris Lessing uses to describe Ben and his relationship with the rest of his family creates a haunting atmosphere for me when reading the novel. For instance, Lessing says “she saw those cold eyes turn towards her, caught a gleam of pure malice. The dog, alerted, scrambled up, and his hair stood on end. He whined anxiously, and came to lie down under the table” (Lessing, 71). Ben created a divide in the family which caused everyone to go their separate ways....