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The Golden Age': The Role of Family

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In Joan London’s The Golden Age, the role of family is reflected distinctly, and also, bittersweet for characters in different age levels. Family is the back supporter for children suffering from polio in the Golden Age as well as the parents express their unconditional devotion. Nevertheless, family relationships in The Golden Age are not always harmonious, as the lack of understanding remotes some of the family members and even makes the relationship fraught. Yet, in broader terms, the theme of family, is complicated.

For pre-adolescent characters like Frank or pathetic one like Ida, they gain support from family economically and spiritually. London depicts a dire condition of not only Holocaust during World War II but also polio pandemics, which love between characters is thus emphasised. Frank, especially, who describes his family as a ‘loud, raw tragicomedy’ without realising Ida bears the burden of a tough job to sustain his life in the Golden Age. Moreover, Ida safeguards Frank, which allow him manage to survive throughout the war. In contrast to Ida, Meyer supports Frank and the whole family emotionally, he constantly visits Frank to assist him to go through the trauma, and in obvious, the discussions between this father and son is much broader the one with Ida. Also, Meyer shows his care for Ida since she feels ‘gutted, feeble, shell-shocked’ after transferring to a new environment, he persuades Ida to regain the confidence found in playing piano. Meyer always exhibits a more personable and relaxed image to ease up the vibe in family but the loneliness and homesickness is never eradicated. The love and contribution between family is selfless even sometimes they have to sacrifice.

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Further, characters who are more mature devote to their family. In contrast to Frank who is sometimes rebellious, characters who have their life experience increased, focus more on family relationships and display profound love on their children. During Holocaust, rather than being a traditional mother, Ida is more pragmatic which is because she has the faith of saving the whole family. In her search for ‘fighting core of survival’, and the use of ‘self-love’ to describe her family, the intense devotion to her family is reflected, unlike the conventional feminine mothers, the belief in saving family boosts and reveals the belligerent and wise side of her. Similarly, Margaret as a mother characterised by a fierce love with Elsa, who overbears other mean family members. However, Margaret is like a ‘mother animal’ who ‘grow[s] up with’ Elsa, she never compromises on the issue when it comes to Elsa, Margaret facilitates the reunion of Frank and Elsa which is likely against the willing of Jack and rebuts at Nance who is arrogant that polio will not limit Elsa’s prospects. Family also means the object of devotion for numerous characters.

Additionally, in spite of love among them, family can be a burden at times. ‘Growing up’ in The Golden Age leads adolescents to be rebellious or further distances between generations, and family relationships can be limitations. Confronting with Ida’s appearance as a flustered and anxious mother, Frank displays exhaustion while getting along with her, as well as, he ‘refuses to be [his parents’] only light’ when facing their over expectations, family somehow blocks the way that Frank pursues his freedom. Besides, Sister Penny as a different position in family, overtakes similar pressure. Though her love towards Elizabeth Ann is also profound, she sees Ann as her ‘number one’, her desire for freedom and human connections enhances their sense of distance. While Elizabeth Ann pursues a conventional life that she is unable to offer and in her marriage, she is ‘swallowed up into what she’s always wanted – a big, respectable family.’ The distance between mother and daughter depresses Sister Penny. Family relationships can sometimes intensify one’s stress.

In the Golden Age, war and polio do great impacts on families, which the bond between family is tightened, and profound love and devotion is evidently displayed. However, inevitably, family normally faces with conflicts, while the lack of mutual understanding also alienates family members. The role of family in The Golden Age is that this provides not only love and care to support one’s life but also becomes part of pressure.

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The Golden Age’: The Role of Family. (2022, September 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 30, 2023, from
“The Golden Age’: The Role of Family.” Edubirdie, 15 Sept. 2022,
The Golden Age’: The Role of Family. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 30 May 2023].
The Golden Age’: The Role of Family [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 15 [cited 2023 May 30]. Available from:
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