In the novel The Birth House by Ami McKay, I found the archetypes of the great mother, the mentor, and the innocent (Gorden 2) are all illustrated half way through the novel. The Birth House is the story of a teenage girl named Dora Rare, living in a small town known as Scots Bay, Nova Scotia during the early 1900’s. Dora goes on a journey of learning midwifery from her mentor, Ms. Babineau, and triumphs the stereotypes that come with the job in that time (McKay).
While I was reading this novel I found that Ms. Babineau whom is a very old lady that has studied witchery and has lived alone her whole life. acts as a mother to the whole community (McKay 7). The great mother is someone or something that provides people with religious and spiritual uplifting (Crisp 1). I strongly believe that Ms. Babineau fills this role for the community with her midwifery and healing powers. “Some say she’s a witch, others say she’s more of angel” (McKay 7), the women of
Scots Bay come to Ms. Babineau with their deepest and darkest secrets and problems and she acts as a healer to them. I can also see Ms. Babineau as an archetypal of the great mother through her midwifery. As I read this story I realized that the women other than Dora Rare, only go to Ms. Babineau when they are expecting a child or ill, other than that they stay away (McKay 24). Through out the pages I have read in this novel, I got the sense that midwives were persecuted even though they were needed. Even through this persecution, Ms. Babineau continues to heal ill women and deliver their children.
On the thought of the character Ms. Babineau, I found that she also illustrates the archetypal as a mentor to the teenage Dora Rare. The archetypal of a mentor is someone who everyone knows in the community and is trustworthy. They are usually a misfit of society but was once in their student’s position and their goal is to make the student realize they are gifted (Frazier 1-8). I can see Ms. Babineau trying to get Dora to start helping her with her midwifery right from the beginning of the novel, “‘mary-be. I was half your age when I first started helpin’ to catch babies. You’ve been pesterin’ me about everything under the sun since you were old enough to talk. You’ll do just fine'” (McKay 7). I first thought of Ms. Babineau as a mentor at this point because she was once a young girl like Dora learning this practice and now she is passing it on to her. While I have been reading this novel the past few days, I have noticed the way Ms. Babineau is looked at. Ms. Babineau is an outcast in society. She lives off by herself and even though everyone knows her, no one is really friends with her (McKay). With Ms. Babineau’s old age and Dora is just about to become a woman, it makes for the perfect time for Ms. Babineau to start mentoring.
Dora Rare is what I consider to be the main character of the book because she is going on journey as Ms. Babineau mentors her. I believe Dora is an archetypal of innocence as she is an optimistic young girl that wants to help others (Mamchur 1). I first realized Dora’s innocence when she attended Mrs. Ketch’s birth. The baby did not survive the birth and
Mrs. Ketch did not want to see it. Ms. Babineau and Dora had to take the baby to bury it. In this time Dora named the baby Darcy and grew a connection with him (McKay 18-19). I believe this incident shows Dora’s innocence because she cares so much for Darcy and grows an attachment to him so fast. I can see Dora following in Ms. Babineau’s foot steps through out the rest of the novel because she shows so much care to the children and mothers when she is looking after them and practising midwifery. I am looking forward to reading the rest of the novel to see how Dora’s character develops.
Crisp, Tony. “Archetype of the Great Mother.” Dream Encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 July 2017.
Coffey, James R. “The Art and Practice of Midwifery.” All Articles RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 July 2017.
Frazier, Christine. “10 Traits of the Mentor Character Archetype: Hagrid + Haymitch.” Better Novel Project. N.p., 27 Nov. 2015. Web. 11 July 2017.
Gorden, Carl. “The 12 Common Archetypes.” The 12 Common Archetypes. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 July 2017.
Mamchur, Carolyn. “Archetype.” Archetype Innocent. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 July 2017.