Analysis of “The Aviator’s Wife” — Part I
I’ve been reading the new book, “The Aviator’s Wife” by Melanie Benjamin. It is the latest fictional interpretation of Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s life.
Honestly, this book took me a while to get into. I thought, here we go again, those women born in the early 1900s, women who had no choice but to live only through their husband’s achievements. The growing frustrations of that life were a major theme in the first half of this book.
Anne Spencer Morrow was raised to be fairly strong and independent. Like so many young women of her generation, she married right after high school or college, feeling honored to be chosen and barely knowing the man she married. Then she found that she was tied for life to the wrong man. Anne not only didn’t know the man she married, she idealized him as a national hero. “Lucky Lindy” was already a legend by the time they married in May of 1929.
Women of that generation didn’t feel they had the right or power to disagree or walk away when they realized they had married a man with very different ways of life, politics or perspective. And the men were taught to expect their wives to simply do what they were told, showing respect and obedience no matter what.
This book portrays Anne Morrow as respectful and obedient until their first child Charlie was kidnapped and killed. After that she found it impossible to act as Charles demanded, showing no emotions about their lost son. The loss of a child is always hard on a relationship, but in this case it was a devastating turning point.
After that, Anne went on to produce five more Lindbergh progeny, children she raised almost solely by herself. Charles was generally somewhere else doing something important. Throughout this time, Anne’s anger and frustration grew, as she realized she has been abandoned by a man she disagreed with, but still loved.
This book is a seething critique of “Lucky Lindy,” a man who succeeded in terrorizing and alienating both his wife and children while looking elsewhere for affection for most of the rest of his life. He had lists and rules about everything, what each child should eat, read, chore lists and how everything should be done, and rules for Anne about keeping detailed accounts of every household expenditure. In other words, the man was a total control freak, who saw his purpose in life to be “whipping everyone into shape.”
The first half of this work of creative fiction was an expose on the extreme difficulties of being the wife of a controlling and powerful man in the early 1900s. Only later did Anne Morrow become a more dynamic person as she finally found her own power and took back control over her life.
I found Anne to be a much more interesting person after age 50, when she found her power and emerged as an independent thinker. I will cover the second part of her life and this novel in a forthcoming post called, “Becoming the person you are inside!”