Book reviews

Dianne Touchell’s A Small Madness (Groundwood Books, 2015)

Well-written novel with both standard and clever dehumanizing language used by abortion supporters.

Supposedly meant for teens, this abortion novel can be enjoyed by all ages.  Pro-life readers studying how anti-life/pro-abortion people dehumanize the unborn child will be especially delighted in the plot and clever language.

Touchell does a remarkable job of using the dehumanizing technique made famous by Ernest Hemingway (calling the unborn child an “it”), and she adds several new twists to the anti-life/pro-abortion dehumanizing lexicon.

While one use of “it” is ambiguous (whether the term refers to the teens’ reactions about the pregnancy in general or to the unborn child him- or herself; see page 64), the uses of “it” to refer to the unborn child are extensive, closely followed by “thing” as another term to demean the unborn child.

Liv, the best friend of Rose, the aborted mother, suggests that she “get rid of it” (56).  Rose thinks the baby isn’t already, but “would […] become a real thing” (56).  Michael, Rose’s lover and father of the child, also queries, “Could they get rid of it?” (58).  Rose thinks of the baby as “the thing” and “it” (67).  Michael calls the unborn child an “it” who is now “like a manatee in his spinal fluid” (85).  When she thinks she is not pregnant but just has a delayed period, Rose declares that “I just created this thing in my mind” (115).  After she miscarries, Rose simply states that “It went away” (124).  When Michael and she reflect on what to do with the child’s body, Rose commands Michael, “Bring it to me”; “’It must be buried,’ Rose said again” (126; italics in original).  Looking at the corpse of the child, Rose calls her “the tiny gray thing” (128).  Even when he is drunk, Michael obsesses over the child’s burial, saying, “We buried it” (159).

Two of Touchell’s items of dehumanizing language towards the unborn child are certainly unique: snot and virus.  Michael compares having an abortion to “picking your nose” (58).  Certainly, likening his own unborn child (daughter) to snot says a great deal about this wayward young man.

Equating the unborn child to a virus may be a new entry in the fictional anti-life lexicon.  Michael concludes that his father’s disappointment in him is “just as much a virus as this thing inside of Rose” (62).  He repeats the metaphor later, referring to “this virus inside her” (82).  Rose herself uses this metaphor often; she says, “I have a virus in me” (97) when she is pregnant and “The virus had gone away” (172) after her miscarriage.

Rose clearly manifests post-abortion syndrome (PAS).  The novel is not a typical teen abortion work, where the mother goes to an abortion clinic to have the child killed; Rose is depicted as miscarrying, so the abortion occurring in this novel is not an elective, but a spontaneous abortion, morally neutral.  What may interest the reader more, though, is determining whether Rose’s intention and efforts to kill the unborn child herself (by smoking, depriving herself of food, etc.) meet the criteria of moral culpability in the child’s killing.

What’s even more interesting is that Rose follows a trajectory of personality defragmentation after the miscarriage and after the police come to speak with her on finding the baby’s body which the teens buried in an empty lot.  She becomes “disconnected” and “more detached and confused” (172).  She calls her thrust into reality “this disconnection” (181).  Another character labels Rose a “vacuous caricature” (186).  At novel’s end, only Michael obviously experiences “relief” after he apparently confessed his role in the child’s burial (189).

Taking only half a day to read, this novel not only definitely entertains, but also allows pro-lifers to study several linguistic ways that anti-life/pro-abortion people try to make the unborn child less than human.

Leave a Reply