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More thoughts on Mrs. Murry

Karen Allendoerfer ravena at CCO.CALTECH.EDU
Wed Jan 4 21:33:53 EST 1995

I read and lost the post that asked "wasn't anyone bothered by this 
description" of Mrs. Murry as "superwoman?" and would like to respond, 
because I think the poster made some important points. I would say that as a 
kid, no, I was not bothered, but as an adult, yes.  I included the 
comment about the concern about getting lab chemicals in the food, 
because that's a concern that as an adult, working scientist, I don't 
think is quite so charming as I did when I was 9.
In fact, as I got older and read some of 
L'Engle's other books, it started to get annoying that all the characters 
were geniuses--there were both super men and women, especially in a 
book called *A Ring of Endless Light* in which the family (not the Murrys)
was in my opinion, just too precious:  one 
of the kids was a genius in physics at MIT, another one, too young for 
college, was beautiful and had a "mind like a scalpel."  These kids 
went around quoting Donne to each other, hence the title.  
Maybe our "problems" arise from how we decide to read the book:
does it have to be "realistic," do we have to be able to model ourselves and
our lives, literally, after the characters?  Someone might read a story
and call it inspiring, another might feel betrayed because it promised too much.
I had both experiences, first being inspired as a 9-year-old, 
and later realizing that I really wouldn't WANT a lab at home--what about 
those pesky safety regulations and the interactions with colleagues down the 
hall that you'd miss, being stuck at home all day?  But 
maybe what's important is the audience the book is intended for, that the 
child appreciates something that the adult cannot.

On the subject of how scientists are portrayed in the media, there was a 
poster at the Society for Neuroscience meeting this year that sampled a 
large variety of Hollywood movies and compiled statistics on which 
professions were portrayed most often in a negative light.  If I remember 
correctly, scientists ranked on a par with murderers, being portrayed in 
a negative light more often than homemakers, police officers, or 
lawyers.  I've also heard the statistic that scientist is the profession 
most likely to die on TV shows.

Against that backdrop, it seems to me that we need all the Mrs. Murrys we 
can get.

Karen Allendoerfer

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