What are the deciding factors in a person’s life? What makes you turn out the way you do? For some time now we have known about the role of genetics in life and fate – they are the foundation of how a person is going to turn out. However, genetics aren’t the only thing that shapes a person as he or she grows up – another thing is upbringing, how a person is raised. This is the subject in the short story “Abduction”.
“Abduction” starts out with a 1st person narrator commenting on certain events that make up the actual story. It begins in medias res with “I wanted to do her in” (“Abduction”, p. 1, l. 1) which gives the reader a basic impression of Ann, the main character, about whom this is said. The narrator who turns out to be Ann’s older sibling gives a further bad impression of Ann, blaming her and calling her “a killer” (p. 1, l. 10). Contrasting to this emotional and subjective beginning is the story itself which is written without further personal comments on Ann’s behavior and where the narrator also becomes less visible to the reader – though the narrative technique using a subjective narrator makes it so that neither Ann’s nor her brother’s feelings or thoughts are expressed.
Ann seems like the perfect daughter at first, “a showpiece product of the State Educational System”
(p. 1, l. 14) but still “like a lot of people” (p. 1, l. 15). There also seems to be a fundamental difference in opinions and views between her and the narrator as he or she comments “I remembered those days too but my recollections were a bit different” (p. 1, l. 18). While seeming like normal people the reader is quickly introduced to what seems to be an ambivalent feeling about family and children and “she loved children” (p. 1, l. 19) yet she gets herself sterilized and even thinks it sensible. We also see this strange relationship with her family “when the best job opportunity, working in a London children’s hospital, came along” (p. 1, l. 23) and she leaves without looking back. It almost seems like she doesn’t really understand her family’s emotions – her mother is anxious and probably wants to feel that she can help her daughter but Ann brushes her off. This is also seen when she takes her younger brother away and laugh at her parents’ shock. She has no understanding of this or the emotional consequences for her parents and her brother.
The emotional consequences for the brother seem to be the very core of the story. Instead of his parents’ love and discipline he comes to live with Ann who has “plenty of money that she was extremely generous with” (p. 2, ll. 39-40) – however she also has a lot of expectations. Although the brother doesn’t want to he still goes to college to please her and her expectations as “he knew his sister expected something of him” (p. 2, l. 51). “She was slightly disappointed” (p. 2, ll. 52-53) though as he doesn’t study what she wants him to study. Whereas she is a pediatrician and more practically minded he is freer and likes things such as dancing, gardening, and sports. Furthermore he now lacks structure – instead, Ann gives him a lot of money and “when he overspent it she happily made up for the shortfall” (p. 2, ll. 59-60) removing limits from his life that he needs.
She also takes care of him as he finishes college and gets him a job. Here the reader can once again see the theme of “money vs. love” as Ann gives him clothes and a briefcase – he doesn’t like these posh gifts. They embody the fact that she replaces love with money and the brother’s inability to cope with this is shown as he “dumped the briefcase in a skip outside somebody’s house […] going back to the beat-up old Nike sports bag he’s brought from home” (p. 2, ll. 70-72) – he wants the old, familiar, beloved sports bag rather than the new and shiny briefcase.
Ann doesn’t let go here though. She seems possessive of the brother especially when he wants to find his own apartment. Like the woman in “Women in Love” “she wanted to have, to own, to control, to be dominant” (“Women in Love”, ll. 8-9). Although Ann is like this towards her brother the situation seems to be the same and Ann’s brother like Brian “wanted so much to be free” (l. 1). Still Ann tries to decide over her brother even as he moves in with his girlfriend and she becomes pregnant. At the same time she seems to be wanting for perfection and when she finds out that her brother is an alcoholic she denies it; “her little brother couldn’t have turned into an alcoholic without her noticing” (“Abduction”, p. 3, ll. 97-98) – his failure is her failure and in her own eyes she can’t fail. She finally accepts it however her “hopes were high” (p. 4, l. 127) when it comes to him recovering. This ends with his death and in his last moments his thoughts turn towards his parents again and his wife and daughter – with his sister noticeably absent. In reference to “Adler’s psychoanalytic ideas on development” the brother, the youngest one of the family, the “family baby” (p. 2, l. 60) is from the beginning “spoiled and allowed to be immature and irresponsible”
(“Adler’s psychoanalytic ideas on development”, ll. 12-13). Ann as a middle child may have been overlooked which may explain her almost hostile attitude towards family in general. To get attention she has become the perfect daughter – materially at least – and expects the same of her brother however he can’t meet these expectations and eventually crumble under them coupled with the freedom he has.
There is no doubt that the brother of the story would have turned out differently if he had not moved in with Ann – and Ann may have turned out differently if she had not been the middle child. The people who raise us – both parents, siblings, and others – are the deciding factors in how we turn out. For better or worse these people influence us and our choices and thereby how our lives will turn out.