Doris May Lessing: The Fifth Child

(2054 words)

The Fifth Child (1988), set in commuter land near London, is the story of a middle-class family which slowly disintegrates after the birth of the fifth child called Ben, a (putative) genetic throwback. He is born in the mid-1970s, closely after a cousin, Amy, who is a Downs Syndrome baby. Amy is well named, being affectionate and much loved, while Ben is both malformed and violent from the moment he is conceived. All members of his family try to love him, but are repulsed. Comparison of Ben with Amy shows that it is his cruel nature, not his strong, simian body and misshapen cranium, which alienates him from his family. His mother, Harriet Lovatt (a significant surname, playing on the word “love”) strives heroically to …

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Scullion, Val. "The Fifth Child". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 01 February 2003
[, accessed 28 November 2015.]