The Values of Parents and the Effects that those Values Have on Their Kids
The book My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult touched base on the fact that the values of Americans can be very different among each individual. Picoult was able to convey this idea through the Fitzgerald family in her novel. In My Sister’s Keeper, Anna Fitzgerald realized that she is tired of being a donor for her sister Kate, who has Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia. She is sick of not having any control over what is done to her body and is ready to take back the rights to her own body. She decides to go to the lawyer, Campbell Alexander, and says to him “I want to sue [my parents] for the rights to my own body” (Picoult 19). Her parents are the ones who have forced her to be Kate’s stem cell, bone marrow, lymphocyte, etc. donor without ever asking her if she is okay with this. Sure they definitely had the right to assume that Anna would automatically agree to being Kate’s lifetime donor because it meant that her sister would be able to live. However, after so many surgeries and transfusions and what not, anyone would get tired of going through so much pain and seeing such little progress in the person that they are supposedly “saving.” By suing her parents, this was the first time in Anna’s entire life in which she decided that her life was more important to her than her sister’s. Regarding the question “What are American values?”, this novel addresses the fact that different parenting styles and values of parents can lead to varying effects on kids.
A common value of most American families is the idea of nurturement. Nurturing someone is when you give encouragement to someone and care for someone. It is the job of parents “to nurture their children and raise them to be nurturers of others” (Lakoff), and with the act of nourishing comes “two aspects: empathy and responsibility–both for yourself and your children” (Lakoff). In My Sister’s Keeper, the Fitzgerald parents did an excellent job of nurturing their sick and dying daughter, but failed to give any sort of nourishment to their other two kids, Jesse and Anna. Jesse and Anna were extremely affected by this. Jesse ended up getting involved in risky behaviors, such as drugs and alcohol, at a very young age, and Anna felt so invisible and unwanted her whole life that it led to a lawsuit against her own parents. What Anna and Jesse both have in common is that they learned at a very young age that they are much less of a priority to their parents compared to Kate. These kids’ parents put Kate so much higher on the totem pole that they failed to recognize that Kate’s illness was not only affecting her negatively but was also negatively affecting her brother and sister.
Along with a lack of nurturing from her parents, Anna exited the womb and immediately had some of her basic rights taken away from her. As soon as she was born, she was denied certain freedoms and equal rights that she should be guaranteed. She was denied her freedom by being required to be Kate’s donor at anytime for anything that she needed, and she was denied her equality when her parents took the rights of her body into their own hands as soon as she was born. Anna was refused the rights that she is supposed to be promised through the Declaration of Independence, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights” (U.S. 1776). These rights were partially absent in Anna’s life because of the values of her parents. They believed that a person should do whatever is needed and whatever is possible to save another person’s life. In an ideal world, this kind of thinking would make complete sense and would seem so loving and caring. In the end, this idea got to their heads and eventually spiraled out of control. Having Anna be Kate’s donor at her own consent is one thing, but having Anna be Kate’s donor from the second she came out of her mother and continue to be her donor throughout her life without ever having a choice or say in whether or not she wanted to go through such horrible pain is a whole other thing. Basic rights such as equality, freedom, and fairness are very important to almost all Americans. However, in the Fitzgerald family the importance and value of these rights were slightly off because of their unfortunate circumstances.
Throughout the novel My Sister’s Keeper, Jodi Picoult was able to successfully portray the differing values of the Fitzgerald parents. Making sure Kate stayed alive was their number one goal, and they did whatever they had to do to meet this goal. However, because of Kate’s life and health being at the top of their list of priorities, their other two kids, Anna and Jesse, were left in the dust to fend for themselves. This caused Jesse to get into drugs and alcohol and it caused Anna to sue her parents. The Fitzgerald’s had to adjust their values to fit their circumstances, but unfortunately doing that led to some major consequences. Overall, the values and parenting styles of every parent are guaranteed to have an affect on their children, whether it is a positive affect or a negative affect, like in the book My Sister’s Keeper.
Jefferson, Thomas, et al. “The Declaration of Independence.” Ushistory.org, Independence Hall Association, 4 July 1995, www.ushistory.org/declaration/document/.
Lakoff, George. “Our Moral Values.” The Nation, 29 June 2015, www.thenation.com/article/our-moral-values/.
Picoult, Jodi. My Sister’s Keeper. Simon & Schuster, 2003.