Unfortunately, parents leave their children because of various health problems. Perhaps, they are simply afraid of difficulties which they would face while raising this child or they are disgusted by the child’s appearance – nobody knows for sure. Louise Erdrich shows one of millions of similar stories, describing the destiny of an abandoned child, in her work “The Years of My Birth.” As many similar stories, this one has its “hook” attracting the readers. In this story, this “hook” is the fear of loneliness closed inside of a white room of an orphan home.
The story briefly narrates about the life of a girl left at maternity home because of her “congenital deformity” (Erdrich 96). Luckily, a nurse adopted baby Linda, and one day her “real” mother found her in order not to apologize, but to ask her to give a kidney to her twin brother. It is a strange and sad story. However, the main thing is not the ethical part of Linda’s mother behavior, but feelings felt by the abandoned child during his/her life.
Erdrich frequently uses the phrase “white room” or “whiteness.” These words are metaphoric and highlight the biggest fear of an innocent child – to be left alone. Two times Linda was taken from her stepmother and the only memory she has about the place she was taken is “another white room” (Erdrich 97). It is not mentioned in the story, but, perhaps, the first white room where she was left was the labor room. Linda remembers the white color of the wall and the smell of disinfectant. The white room was the place she was alone in, and only the invisible presence of her twin-brother helped her to stand this loneliness. In addition, another white room appears at the end of the story, at the hospital. The ward of Linden, the woman’s twin-brother was the last place where the only person who was supposed to be there for Linda (at least spiritually) left her. “… I occasionally had the sensation that there was someone walking beside me or sitting behind me, always just beyond my peripheral vision” (Erdrich 101). This sensation helps the girl not to stick in her helplessness. However, here, in another white room the pretense of support crashes over the white walls. Perhaps, the “white room” should be renamed to “leaving room” in this case. “Whiteness” is a sign of loneliness, despair and disappointment for the little girl, who is not guilty of being born not like the others. Moreover, the “room” is a lonely place in Linda’s memory, where all bad and painful memories are stored. The metaphor of the white room also opens when Linda recalls that even though she is away from her near and dear, she feels support.
White color in Erdrich’s story is a metaphor of pain and injustice. For example, when Linda’s older sister broke the vase, she blamed Linda. “Because you are white,” (Erdrich 99) – that is what she says when Linda asks her sister about the reason she accused her. Being white meant to be alone in the reservation, to be different, and, thus, to be punished for this otherness. The woman was once punished for being not like other, now she is blamed again.
In conclusion, it should be said that this story is touching. The use of “white” metaphor in the text helps to understand what feelings the abandoned child experiences. White means different, different means lonely – that is the main subject and message of the story, the story of a little girl who was fighting the scary appearance of empty white walls all her life and finally got into their trap.