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Fall on Your Knees

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    Faizan Sadiq Frances Piper: The Devil’s Advocate? In Fall On Your Knees, Ann-Marie MacDonald presents a vivid and life-like character in Frances Piper. Frances Piper is one of the four Piper girls, and she is different from the rest of them. From her early childhood, Frances is a bold and naughty girl who is always getting herself into trouble. She has a great mischievous streak which troubles her father, James Piper, immensely.

    James Piper himself has a demon-like personality at various times throughout the novel, some of which he collects from his father in his early childhood. In a similar fashion to Frances’s father’s past, the reader can visualize Frances getting accustomed to her father’s personality and see her become a demon herself, trying to get back at her father. In a way, Frances can be seen as the Devil’s advocate. However, how can a young and sweet girl carry such a negative impact to her family, especially when she is the heart of this novel?

    Although Frances can be visualized as the Devil’s advocate by her actions, various characters, and the loss of her innocence through her father, Frances is a sweet, young, and seldom frightened girl who is trying to live a life that her grandmother, mother, and sisters have not – a life filled with new adventures, and life risking actions, all while maintaining a good heart. The life that could never be attained by Materia is achieved by Frances to some extent.

    Frances is always looking for adventures and risk. Moreover, Frances Piper’s change in nature can be seen the day of the funeral of Materia, her mother. She cannot control the laughter that escapes her while the funeral is taking place. However, she is amazed when James and Mercedes, her sister, think that she is crying. In that moment of her life, Frances learns something “that will allow her to survive and function for the rest of her life. She finds out that one thing can look like another . . .

    Some would simply say Frances learned how to lie” (142). This moment is a transition in Frances’s life because she realizes that she is now on her own and will have to live her life in order to survive. After she is raped by her father, James, she has been instilled with his demon inside of her and this can be the reason for the transition in her life. She has lost her innocence at a very young age and cannot go back to her father for comfort, leaving her on her own to look after her youngest sister, Lily Piper.

    Although she is a very mischievous girl at a young age, always teasing Lily with scary stories and not minding anyone’s feelings, it is not because the Devil has taken a place inside of her. However, as Dina Georgis states, Frances “although naughtier, reproduces Materia’s bizarre brilliance and her insightful, yet self-destructive behaviour” (Georgis 224). Frances is reconstructing the way her mother lived, with excitement and behaviour that is not fit for society. Moreover, Georgis goes on saying “Frances re-enacts the trauma of her life, often with more scandal and perhaps with more pleasure” (Georgis 224).

    Therefore, taking all these considerations into mind, it can be seen that Frances is not acting out what the Devil desires; in fact, she is acting out the life that her mother could never have, because of all the restrictions imposed upon her. An example of Frances re-enacting her mother’s life out is when she secretly talks to Lily in bed late at night: “Frances uses half-remembered phrases and tells fragments of old stories, weaving them with pieces of songs, filling in the many gaps with her own made-up words that approximate the sounds of Mumma’s Old Country tongue” (243).

    These instances prove that Frances is really not portraying her devilish attributes as a young girl; rather, she is merely trying to live out her mother’s life, and in a way, getting back at her father for all the years that he abused Materia. As Frances gets older, the reader can see that she has started to become naughtier and more unruly. She does not care for society by any means, and goes about prostituting herself – believing that this is a way she can get back at her father – who is believed to be the Devil by the community in which they are living in.

    Frances starts to smoke, drink, and perform very cheap shows at the age of sixteen. She is prostituting herself to older men, and it is horrible because of the manner she is performing her acts: “Frances will bounce in your lap with your fly buttoned for as long as it takes for two bucks . . . A hand job costs two-fifty – she has a special glove she wears, left over from her first communion. ”(293) Using a communion glove to perform vile acts is atrocious, because when that glove is used for a religious service, not a vile act.

    This is an instance where the reader can start to imagine that Frances may be representing the Devil because of her actions. Laura Robinson states that instead of “labouring quietly for little pay, doing charitable work, and having reverence for patriarchs, Frances performs loudly, prostitutes herself, and demonstrates no respect for her father” (Robinson 37). However, she also goes on to say that “France works to provide the funds for Lily’s escape from home and the dangers of the family” (Robinson 37).

    MacDonald also mentions in the novel that Frances wants to start saving her money for Lily, and is putting her money away in a secret place (293). She realizes that what she is doing is for a good cause: to protect her younger sister Lily and to save enough money to send her away when the time comes. At heart, she is a sweet and loveable girl, always looking out for her sister and doing whatever she can to help her, even though her acts are atrocious and the ramifications are vile and send the wrong message.

    Another act that is considered vile in the early 1900s throughout the novel is miscegenation. Miscegenation is the marriage or relationship between a man and a woman of different races. There is a lot of miscegenation throughout the novel, the most notable being Frances Piper and Leo Taylor. It can be seen that the inner Devil that Frances possesses forces her to provoke Leo Taylor, a black man, to sleep with her so she can bear a coloured child. She seduces him and tempts him until he breaks down and gives in to her desires.

    Teresa, who is the sister of Leo Taylor, believes that Frances is under the influence of the Devil. Teresa believes that Frances is the Devil and she shoots her. She can only look at Frances and think, “The Devil’s face housed in a shape of pity. Teresa watched Frances raise her arms in triumph, a mocking smile twisting her lips, and hiss the name ‘Teresa’” (401). However, after that fact, it can be seen the Frances is changing, and making reparations with the people of New Waterford. Gabriella Parro also accounts that France has been changed after the shooting.

    Parro, in unity with Ann-Marie MacDonald, states that Frances has thrown away her Girl Guide uniform, she makes reparations with people in New Waterford, she makes reparations with her father, and she ceases to act foolishly with Lily (Parro 188). Frances, in a way, is re-creating her mother’s life. She wants to do everything that her mother did, but add some colour, excitement, and adventure to her life. Moreover, by escaping the wrath of James Piper and doing everything that he was against, she has found herself to forgive him, and he has found love for his daughter.

    By wanting to conceive a child, Frances is showing that she is ready to take that next stage in life, motherhood. Frances’s transition through life portrays her mother’s life. Ultimately, although Frances can be visualized as the Devil because of her actions, and behaviours the reader can see her as a young girl who has fears and longs for her elder sister and mother. Frances is a good person – at heart – and is always looking out for her younger sister. Moreover, even though she has different views that her father and will usually do the opposite of what is expected of her, this insecurity is caused by James.

    Frances feels that in order to gain security in her life, she will ultimately have to live according to her own standards. Frances’s naughty and mischievous behaviour can be viewed as a weakness she possesses, and she longs to correct these weaknesses by making reparations in the end of the novel. She is not a role model by any means, but she is by no means the Devil’s advocate. A sincere heart – compelled by circumstances – does its best to make the situation turn out for the better, and Frances, through her longing for her mother, does just that. Word Count: 1507 Works Cited Georgis, Dina. Falling for Jazz: Desire, Dissonance, and Racial Collaboration. ”  Canadian Review of American Studies, 35. 2 (2005): 215-229. Academic Search Complete. Web. 4 Nov. 2009. Robinson, Laura. “Remodeling An Old-Fashioned Girl – Troubling Girlhood in Ann-Marie MacDonald’s Fall on Your Knees. ”  Canadian Literature, 186 (2005): 30-45. Academic Search Complete. Web. 4 Nov. 2009. Parro, Gabriella. “’Who’s Your Father, Dear? ’ Bloodlines and Miscegenation in Ann-Marie MacDonald’s Fall on Your Knees. ”  Canadian Review of American Studies, 35. 2 (2005): 177-193. Academic Search Complete. Web. 4 Nov. 2009.

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