The Thorn Birds

Meggie is right, of course.

Men are like moths, chasing a flame that is behind a glass window, and wearing themselves out in this futile process.

The flame represents fame and fortune resulting from hard work. Success, in a word.

Men validate themselves by their performance at work, or seek to. They will subordinate everything to this futile project – health, marriage, children, life itself.

Meanwhile, women, unaware of how much words can wound, criticize their men for such folly. Wives demean their husband’s work, and caustically comment on how worthless it is or how silly men are to worship the god of success.

In the process, of course, they attack the core of a man’s being; wither whatever affectionate care he might have had for her; and murder their marriage.

Meggie has nothing good to say to or about Luke. She complains, she criticizes, she cuts him down in every way possible. He is a selfish jerk, to be sure, and doesn’t “deserve” her love, but her conduct is sure to drive him farther and farther away from her and their hapless child. Any remnant of ordinary human kindness that might still reside in his self-centered heart will be drained away by Meggie’s constant assaults.

Nor does she treat Ralph any better. Yes, his consuming ambition has driven him to renounce any connection with Meggie, whom he loves passionately. She sees that, and hates him for it. Not seeing that he really does love her; forgetting that he drove a thousand miles to visit her just because he sensed that she was in trouble; and totally eaten up by her own self-pity, she assails him with false accusations and orders him to leave. Which he does, of course. A man can take only so much abuse.

What she fails to see in either Ralph or Luke is the in-built, God-given nature of a man’s commitment to work and to what he sees as his duty. This originally good instinct has been twisted, perverted, and monstrously deformed by the Fall, but it reflects something that God intended for Adam and his sons.

Meggie needs to learn that negative speech doesn’t succeed in browbeating a man into doing his duty as a husband and father. Compliments – since expressions of admiration for his abilities and achievements – caresses, and care for him as a person might gradually wean the poor man away from his obsession with money and success. There’s no guarantee, of course; but we do know that criticisms and complaints will only further encourage a man to withdraw into a world where he finds fulfillment and affirmation: his work.