Abraham Khan II shuddering

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Abraham Khan II

Dr. Grant

English 101, Tuesday 3:45

December 19, 2005

                                The Struggles of a Woman

       Women go through a lot of struggles in this biased world we live in. In the book

White Oleander, Astrid encountered a lot of troubles. Astrid would constantly get

manipulated and abused by her surroundings. It is hard to respect one’s self when the

people around an individual do not respect that individual. When a person is being

bombarded by abuse, one tends to lose self esteem and feel less beautiful. Janet Fitch

states, “Beauty was my mother’s law, her religion. You could do anything you wanted as

long as you were beautiful, as long as you did things beautifully… Women in bright

summer silks and a shifting bouquet of expensive perfumes eyed her critically. Men

admired her, smiled, and stared. Despair was the killer. I had to prepare, hold hope

between my palms like the flame of the last match in the long Arctic night... It was one

thing to hope, but you had to take care of yourself in the present in order to survive”

(Fitch 135, 137). Ingrid thought that her beauty was her strength, but strength comes

from within and has nothing to do with one’s physical appearance. Ingrid attracted all the

wrong men, because she viewed life so superficially. Ingrid was disappointed at every

man she met, because she was looking at the wrong places. Beauty comes from within;

the size of one’s heart is the measure of ones beauty. I have met women who are very

attractive, but had a heart like a stone. A mean woman is an ugly woman, even though

she might be attractive. Ingrid might have been beautiful, but her heart made her
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unattractive. “I stroked the furry ends of my short hair with one palm. I was glad I’d cut

it off. A gang of girls jumped me twice… because someone’s boyfriend thought I was

good looking. I didn’t want to be pretty” (Fitch 309-310). Astrid didn’t want to be pretty

because she didn’t believe she was pretty. Astrid grew up in a bad environment, which

warped her views on life. Astrid’s mother worshipped beauty, and raised Astrid to do the

same. Astrid was frustrated with life, and could no longer bare the attention. Astrid

didn’t want to be pretty because she didn’t have a pretty life. Astrid bounced around

from foster home to foster home, mother in prison for life, and she never met her father,

so she didn’t know how to react to beauty. It is real easy for one to feel beautiful when

one’s surroundings are beautiful, but it is difficult to seek beauty when one is surrounded

by negativity. Astrid went from family to family trying to feel that void with love, but

failed each time she took that journey.

       “How can I shed tears for a man I should have never allowed to touch me in any

way?... Honey, this is what happens when you fall in love. You’re looking at a natural

disaster” (Fitch 30). “At that moment, I knew why people tagged graffiti on the walls of

neat little houses and scratched the paint off new cars and beat up well-tended children.

It was natural to want something you could never have” (Fitch 34). Ingrid is a miserable

person who destroys things she can’t have. Ingrid knew she couldn’t have Ron all to

herself, so she murdered him. Everything Ingrid wanted in life and couldn’t have, she

stole from her loved ones. Ingrid had bad experiences with men, so she created a block

wall and wouldn’t let men in her life. The block wall Ingrid created can only stand up for

so long until someone like Ron comes into her life. Ingrid was never in a steady

relationship, so she was jealous of the fact that Astrid was seeing Paul and that’s why
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Ingrid spoke poorly of Paul’s drawings. Every time Astrid would visit her mother, she

would leave disappointed. Ingrid would thrive off of one’s misery like a lion in the

jungle. Ingrid would destroy everything she could not have. “Don’t you dare ask me to

accept Jesus as my savior, wash my soul in the Blood of the Lamb. Don’t even think of

trying to redeem me. I regret NOTHING. No women with any self-respect would have

done less. The question of good and the nature of evil will always be one of philosophy’s

most intriguing problems, up there with the problem of existence itself. If evil means to

be self-motivated, to be the center of one’s own universe, to live on one’s own terms,

then every artist, every thinker, every original mind, is evil”( Fitch 74). Ingrid had no

remorse for the death of Ron. In Ingrid’s eyes she was the victim. How can Ingrid

murder a man, regret nothing, and still call herself a critical thinker? Ingrid claims to be

wise and enlightened, but her best thinking got her life in prison. Ingrid speaks about

living on her own terms, but her own terms are twisted and demented. Ingrid hated the

cross, and despised the fact that Astrid was baptized. Christianity is one of many

religions, and Ingrid thought religious people are the enemy. Religion has led to a lot of

bloodshed, but at least Astrid made an attempt to seek her higher power. Ingrid speaks

about artists, but artists are open minded and understand there are infinitely many

possibilities and several paths to spiritual enlightenment. Ingrid is the opposite of an

artist; she only sees things in one dimension. Ingrid is like an animal, the minute she

feels pain she acts violently. Ingrid hates religion because she hates forgiveness. When

Astrid told Ingrid that she believed in God, Ingrid tried to take that away from her. Maya

Pines states, “The narcissistic perso-nality disorder can be recognized by “grandiose

sense of self- importance; recurrent fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance,
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beauty or ideal love; a craving for constant attention and admiration; feelings of rage,

humiliation, or haughty indifference when criticized or defeated; and at two of following:

a sense of en-titlement; exploitive ness, the tendency to take advantage of others and to

disregard their rights; oscillation between extreme over idealization and devaluation of

others; and lack of empathy, meaning not just an inability to see that others have feelings

at all’ (Pines C-1). Ingrid loves to feel like a victim, and wants the whole world to pay

for her sufferings. Ingrid had a major personality disorder; she would always put herself

above all, even above the law. Ingrid thought she knew everything about life, and put her

beauty, writings, artistic work, and herself above everything else.

        “You’re lucky I allow you to sit at the table with the other girls, with that hideous

face. In Argentina you would not be allowed to walk through the front door. What do

you know about a noble home? Just a common piece of street garbage. Mother in

prison. You know, you stink like garbage. When you come into a room, the girls hold

their breath. You soil my home. Your presence insults me. I don’t even want to look at

you” (Fitch 199). Astrid has been deprived of food, and treated like a slave. Amelia

would brag to her friends about how profitable foster care is. Amelia would demand the

girls to constantly fix up the house, and only feed them once a day. Rena Grushenka also

made a business out of foster care. Rena wanted to kick Yvonne out because Rena knew

it would cost too much money to take care of a baby. Rena wanted Astrid to sell here

clothes without asking permission, so she can make a 25% profit. In the end of the book

Rena was trying to manipulate Astrid to get money from Ingrid. Women like Rena and

Amelia have no heart, they only care about money. One of the case workers, Ms.

Cardoza, recommended Astrid to stay at Amelia’s home after Astrid complained several
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times. The foster care system needs to do a better job screening foster parents, because

so many people use the foster system as a business scam. Researchers from The

American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) showed that over

500,000 children in the U.S. are in some type of foster care. Foster care has increased

drastically over the past ten years, and two-thirds of the foster care population is African-

American. AACAP sates, “being removed from their home and placed under foster care

have several emotional, behavioral, or developmental problems.” Information from

AACAP showed that children in foster care often struggle with the following issues:

       • blaming themselves and feeling guilty about the removal from their birth


       • wishing to return to birth parents even if they were abused by them

       • feeling unwanted if awaiting adoption for a long time

       • feeling helpless about multiple changes in foster parents over time

       • having mixed emotions about attaching to foster parents

       • feeling insecure and uncertain about the future

       • reluctantly acknowledging positive feelings for foster parents

Astrid struggled with all of those issues. Astrid constantly blamed herself for the murder

of Ron, even though it was not her fault. Astrid wanted to reunite with her mother, even

though Ingrid abused her. Ingrid abandoned Astrid, neglected her, tried to mold Astrid in

her own image, and made her an accomplice to such horrific crimes, yet Astrid still loved

Ingrid and wanted her back. Astrid felt unwanted, and constantly bounced around from

home to home, and grew attached to the people at every home she went to. Each new

home carried a different phase change in Astrid’s life, and always tried to look for love
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and attention. Each time Astrid would leave another home she would feel upset,

abandoned, and confused. Astrid felt insecure about the future, and always felt nervous

going into a new foster home. Researched by the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and

Reporting System(AFCARS) shows that: 54% of foster children earned a high school

diploma, 2% obtained a bachelor’s degree or higher, 84% became a parent, 51% were

unemployed, 30% had health insurance, 25% had been homeless, and 30% were

receiving public assistance. I had an African-American friend in high school named

Jamal, who was a foster child. Jamal was an excellent student, played sports, and was

very popular. Unfortunately, Jamal turned eighteen three months upon graduation, so his

foster parents kicked him out. Everybody that knew Jamal was very disturbed, but

luckily my friend Carlos let Jamal stay at his house. Jamal finished his schooling,

graduated, and did extremely well. Jamal was fortunate to have a friend like Carlos, but

thousands of foster children aren’t so fortunate. Jamal lived with his foster parents for

eight years before he got thrown out, how can people be so inhumane? Jamal was kicked

out because his foster parents could no longer profit from him. Jamal wasn’t looking for

a brand new car, he just wanted to graduate high school. Foster care children go through

a lot of abuse, but they do have rights. Every foster child has the right to live in a safe

home with enough clothes and healthy food. A foster child should have his/her own

place to store items, an allowance, and the capability to make phone calls. Foster care

children should have medical attention, go to after school activities, have their own bank

account, be treated with respect, and be able to go to religious services.

       Janet Fitch states, “I put my hands around his waist, pressed my face into the

scratchy wool between his shoulder blades, something I’d wanted to do since he held me
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the first Sunday when I’d ditched church and stayed behind in the trailer. I closed my

eyes and breathed in his scent, dope and sweat and new wood. He didn’t move, just gave

a shuddering sigh.

       “You’re a kid,” he said.

       “I’m a fish swimming by, Ray,” I whispered in his neck. “Catch me if you want

me” (Fitch 96). Astrid was young and confused, and Ray took advantage of her. Ray

should been sent to prison for statutory rape. Astrid was not mentally and emotionally at

the right state of mind. Astrid didn’t know what love was because her role models were

Olivia and Ingrid. Ray was old enough to be Astrid’s father, and had no excuse for

having intercourse with a child. Many foster children get sexually abused, and fall victim

to statutory rape. Ray was not a father figure or a good role model; he was a sex offender

who belonged in prison. Reported from the AACAP, sexually abused children can

develop physical signs such as; depression or withdrawal from friends, seductiveness,

refusal to go to school, delinquency/conduct problems, aspects of sexual molestation

through drawing, games, and fantasies, unusual aggressiveness, or suicidal behavior.

Astrid suffered from multiple problems after that incident, and suffered from the

problems listed above. The best advice Ingrid gave Astrid was to not pursue an intimate

relationship with Ray. Virginia Woolf states, “[t]hat’s a thing that never ceased to amaze

me … The respect that women, even well educated, very able women, have for men … I

believe we must have this sort of power over you that we are said to have over horses.

They see us as three times as big as we are or they would never obey us. For that very

reason, I am inclined to doubt that you’ll ever do anything even when you have the vote

… Consider what a bully the ordinary man is”(Woolf 196). Woolf’s quote was directly
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related to Olivia, her views on men, and what she does to overcome her present situation.

Olivia had an MBA in business, and a very good job at a prestigious business. How can

such a well educated women be so blind? Olivia understood sexism, but instead of

fighting for her rights, she accepted them. Olivia knew the concept of a mans world, but

she used her knowledge for destruction. Olivia used her beauty as an object that men

disrespected. Olivia appeared to be happy, but was miserable on the inside. Olivia was

lonely on Christmas day, and all the money in the world can’t fill the void she had inside

her. Like Ingrid, Olivia never believed in love, and figured she should use men like men

use her. The key to happiness comes from within, and the materialistic items in the world

can’t substitute that happiness. Olivia used her most sacred treasures as a weapon that

will lead to her own destruction. Olivia assumed the fight for equality was too large, so

she used male’s weaknesses for her own advantage. “It’s a man’s world, Astrid,” she

said. You ever here that?” “I nodded. A man’s world. But what did that mean? That

men whistled and stared and yelled things at you, and you had to take it, or you would get

raped or beat up. A man’s world meant places men could go but not women. It meant

they had more money, and didn’t have kids, not the way women did, to look after every

second. And it meant that women loved them more than they loved the women, that they

[men] could want something with all their hearts, and then not” (Fitch 142). Astrid lived

in an environment where sexism constantly took place. Olivia, Rena, Claire, Star, and

Astrid all had one thing in common; they were all victims to sexism. Olivia battled

against sexism on a daily basis because her sole source of income was based on men’s

disrespect for women. All of Ingrid’s relationships ended up with her lover cheating on

her. Claire was abandoned by her husband, and was lonely and suicidal on a daily basis.
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Star’s boyfriend ray cheated on her by having intercourse with Astrid. Astrid had

numerous accounts of abuse starting with Ray sleeping with her, Astrid sucking a boy’s

dick in the park for dope, and Sergui having sex with her in Rena’s room. Every women

in this book got abused by men in some way, shape, or form. Riane Eisler states, “Living

in a male dominated society that has subverted historical truth to suit its own masculine

agenda makes anyone who challenges falsehood subversive and “dangerous.” The sad

truth is, “male socialization [which] equates real masculinity with violence and

domination” has had a devastating impact on the world, making it crucial to the survival

of the human race that we rediscover the worth of women hidden in the history of the

destructive of goddess civilizations and embrace the feminine energy necessary to

balance the masculine energy threatening to annihilate mother earth” (Eisler 208).

       Astrid made a major transition through the six years of the foster care system. In

the beginning of the book Astrid looked up to her mother, one might say Astrid

worshipped her mother. At the end of the book Astrid let go of her mother, and got rid of

all views and ties. Each time Astrid would visit her mother, Ingrid would reveal her true

self, and Astrid would leave frustrated. Through time Astrid saw her mother for who she

was, and identified her narcissistic personality disorder. Every woman in this book was a

victim to sexism. Out of all the women who were victimized, Astrid handled the

situation the best. Astrid was the youngest women and had more common sense then the

rest of the women, including her own mother. Claire was abused by her husband, so she

decided to commit suicide. Star found out Ray was having an affair with Astrid, so she

tried to kill Astrid. Ingrid murdered Ron for dating other women. Astrid was the only

person who acted civilized and rationally. It seems like all the adults handled the
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situation poorly, yet they all had something to say about Astrid’s life. The only

difference between Astrid and the other women is that Astrid didn’t act on impulse like

the rest of the women. Astrid learned how to adapt an overcome life’s battles no matter

how bad the situation was. Astrid portrayed a very strong character, and many people

should be inspired by her inner strength.
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                                     Work Cited

Grant, R.O. I Thought I Was the Crazy One personhood press, 2003

Grant, R.O. Being the Change I Want to See Thompson Learning, 2006

Fitch, J. White Oleander Little Brown, and Company, 1999

Bandit Queen. Dir. Shekhar, Kapur. 1994, Fitch quotes

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