“Once upon a cruddy time on a cruddy street on the side of a cruddy hill in the cruddiest part of a crudded-out town in a cruddy state, country, world, solar system, universe”(9) there existed a young girl named Roberta Robheson. Roberta Robheson’s world is so incredibly cruddy because all the people that exist around her are selfish individuals whose main motivation in life is to better themselves and gain money or prestige. Linda Barry, the author of Cruddy, explores this concept through dark imagery and a disturbing plot that exhibits many characters whose actions are motivated by self-interest and greed which demonstrate Barry’s view that today’s society is rampant with narcissistic individuals.
The theme of characters pursuing actions for selfish reasons is exhibited in Roberta’s relationship with her mother. For “[o]nce in the olden days of Roberta’s life there was a dog named Cookie”(9), and Roberta held this dog close to her heart, it was the one figure in her life that she could rely on and have faith in. However Roberta’s mother was “…always screaming at Cookie for everything…screaming because Cookie had incurable skin problems caused by the mange creature Demodex…And then the mother said Cookie had to go and Roberta begged and begged her no but all the mother did was wait until Roberta went to school and when she came home there was no Cookie”(10). By getting rid of Cookie without Roberta’s consent, the mother took away a vital part of a Roberta’s life. Dog is said to be man’s best friend, and it seems that Cookie truly was Roberta’s best friend; acting as a refuge in the dark, disturbing world that surrounds her. Roberta’s mother neglected her daughter’s happiness for her own, and in a selfish attempt to make her life easier she annihilated the one stable figure in Roberta’s life. This little action demonstrates how much the mother values her own contentment over that of her daughter’s, exhibiting Barry’s point of view that society today is filled with individuals who only keep their own interests at mind and neglect those of even the closest people to them. Roberta’s mother’s self interest is evident again in the abandonment and neglect of her children. In order to get time away with a doctor she is dating, Roberta’s mother leaves Roberta and her sister Julie home for an extended period of time. Roberta retells the experience describing the “fake sound of the mother’s fizz-laughing, sounding very fake, and her voice calling to [them] in a merry way, saying Aunt Caroline would be over any minute and for [them] to be good and mind Aunt Caroline, and the mother would see [them] next week. The front door closed…”(97). Roberta’s mother clearly does not have her daughters’ best interests at heart; she disregards them in order to pursue a relationship with a wealthy doctor. The mother’s lack of responsibility towards her children is demonstrated again when she “…shove[s] [Roberta] into the backseat of [her father’s] car in the middle of the night”. It was “[h]er who piled the clothes on top of [Roberta] and said if [she] said one single world, if [she] made a peep to let him know [she] was back there, [the mother] would pull [her] eyes out”(24). Roberta’s mother forces Roberta into the backseat of her father’s car and uses Roberta as a ploy to maintain a connection to her husband. She puts Roberta’s safety and comfort at risk in an attempt to hold on to her husband, knowing that if he leaves with Roberta he will eventually have to come back. The mother’s actions are all driven by her desire to live an easier life; one free of two needy children and full of freedom to date men with money. Her true self-centeredness is demonstrated in her repeated negligent decisions, thus revealing Barry’s point that today’s world is brimming with selfish individuals. Roberta’s mother is not the only selfish person in her life; Roberta’s father is the most egocentric character in the novel and the closest to Roberta; making his...
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