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Additional resources for Dancing in the Flames: Spiritual Journey in the Novels of Lee Smith
However, we never know for sure what exactly Brooke desires since she has been silenced by her society, her family, and even her friends at school to the point of numbness and acquiescence. In Brooke’s ﬁrst intimate relationship with Bob Grifﬁn, or “Houston” as she calls him, a “good old boy” (65) Brooke meets on a blind date, she initially hopes to achieve wholeness through sexual intercourse. However she soon discovers that Houston cannot supply the missing part of her identity. Smith provides early indications of the impending failure of this relationship by emphasizing Brooke’s feelings of suffocation and shortness of breath when in Houston’s presence.
I. “Nothing left to say” 27 This mother’s advice to her teenage daughter embarking on a new life at college exempliﬁes de Beauvoir’s argument that a patriarchal culture produces girls overly concerned with their bodies and equally unconcerned with their minds. Even at the end of the novel as the family prepares for Brooke’s brother Carter’s wedding, Carolyn’s primary concern rests with Brooke’s physical attractiveness; she insists that her daughter get her hair cut and literally pushes Brooke into the sun every day to work on her tan.
Although Carolyn does not desert her family like Susan’s mother, her sexuality alienates Brooke, who describes her mother as “very distant” (33). Differing greatly from Carolyn since Brooke lacks interest in physical appearance and attracting the opposite sex, Brooke realizes her inadequacy in her mother’s eyes. Before Brooke leaves for college, Carolyn provides her daughter the only “motherly advice” offered during the course of the novel. This counsel, reminiscent of Betty’s guidance for Susan, chieﬂy consists of a number of tips on how to attract men.