Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks Essay

Since the dawn of life, every organism, unless created through asexual reproduction methods, has had a mother and a father figure, even if they are not around for a significant period of time. Despite the fact that some organisms such as the Cryptodira Chelonioidea, or sea turtle, are abandoned before birth and still turn out the way that most do, most creatures do benefit from having a mother and father, whether they be related to them genetically or emotionally, Deborah Lacks is not an exception to this.

While Deborah Lacks was still a little girl, she lost her genetic mother, Henrietta Lacks, to cervical cancer, and due to this, she did not have the certain type of guidance that mothers can bestow upon their children. However, by losing her genetic mother, she had a spot for an emotional mother to come in, whom she eventually found in the year 2000 in the form of a student, a writer, and a soon to be close friend, Rebecca Skloot. Throughout the book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot utilizes various literary elements to help emphasize the formation of a motherdaughter relationship between Deborah and herself.

Albeit there are a slew of instances throughout The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks that document the idea that Skloot cared for Deborah in a mother type fashion, a prime example can be seen when Deborah and herself are looking through Elsie Lack’s medical records at the Crownsville State Hospital. During the 1950s, the years that Elsie Lacks was staying at the Crownsville State Hospital, this hospital as well as many others were taking part in, what many would consider to be, unethical practices, such as performing experiments on patients without their consent being given.

Due to this, upon studying the medical ecords, Skloot and Deborah come across some rather disturbing, yet enlightening, information, which Rebecca Skloot responds to by stating, “The second I read the title, I flipped the article facedown in my lap. For a moment I considered not showing it to Deborah. I thought maybe I should read it first, so I could prepare her for whatever awful thing we were about to learn” (Skloot 274). From this quote it can clearly be seen that Rebecca Skloot treats Deborah Lacks in a motherly manner by the connotations associated with her actions throughout it, as well as her reasoning to support them.

By saying, “I considered not showing it to Deborah,” and then backing this action up by saying that she did not want Deborah to learn anything too horrible about the experiences that Elsie Lacks went through, Rebecca Skloot is taking on the role of a mother, or guardian. By even just thinking of trying to protect Deborah Lacks from this potentially harmful information, Skloot is being motherly because of how this has a protective connotation associated with it, which coupled with how mothers and fathers usually want to protect their children from harm depicts Skloot being motherly to Deborah Lacks.

Similar to how Rebecca Skloot showed herself as being a mother by thinking about protecting Deborah Lacks with the medical records, she also displayed a motherly attitude towards Deborah Lacks when they had been traveling for a while, and said, “I don’t know if that’s a good idea,’I said. ‘Don’t you want a break,” which was directed towards Deborah’s idea to move on to Annapolis (Skloot 277). This quote, similar to that of the previous one, is an example because of how Skloot shows herself taking part in actions that mothers or fathers generally perform.

In this quote, the reader witnesses as Rebecca Skloot asks Deborah Lacks whether or not she wants to take a break, which from this it can be inferred that Skloot cares about Deborah’s well being, for if she did not, then she would not have asked her this. This idea, coupled with how in general most parents care about their children, displays to the reader how Skloot is a motherly figure towards Deborah.

Throughout The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks there are many cases in which Skloot uses her actions to represent a motherly attachment towards Deborah, however, this means nothing if it is not reciprocated by Deborah Lacks, for then there would not be a mother-daughter relationship in the first place. While Rebecca Skloot can be seen as being a motherly figure towards Deborah, the fact that Deborah sometimes acts in a childish manner should not be overlooked when looking at their relationship. or these examples are just as important in supporting this notion.

When Deborah and Rebecca Skloot were in a hotel room, looking over notes for Skloot’s book, Deborah Lacks, despite wanting to join Skloot on her journey, was constantly changing her opinion on whether or not she trusted Skloot, as can be seen by how Skloot stated, “Occasionally she stashed papers under the pillow, then pulled them out when she decided it was okay for me to see them” (Skloot 207).

Similar to how Rebecca Skloot’s actions depicted her as being a guardian towards Deborah, in this quote Deborah’s actions result in her being portrayed as a child like character, or someone who needs guidance, such as a daughter. By, “stash[ing] papers under the pillow,” Deborah can be seen as a child because of the connotations associated with the word “stash”. Stashed is defined by many as the securing of something in a place unbeknownst to most, which shows her intent of keeping the papers secret.

Now this coupled with the social norm of children being secretive of items that belong to them, shows that Deborah is a child like character around Rebecca Skloot, thus completing her part in their motherdaughter relationship. Along with how Deborah shows herself as being a child in her actions revolving around the papers, she can also be seen as taking part in childish actions when she agrees to talk to Rebecca Skloot for the first time. When Skloot had tried for months to get into contact with Deborah, she received a phone call one day, and in it Deborah stated, ‘When I answered the phone, she yelled, ‘Fine, I’ll talk to you! ” (Skloot 33).

Throughout this portion of the book, Rebecca Skloot can be seen as constantly trying to convince Deborah to trust and talk to her about her mother, as displayed to the reader when she says, “While I was on the road, I’d leave messages for Deborah every few days, hoping to convince her that if she talked to me, we could about Henrietta together” (Skloot 232). Now, although many people would say that Deborah’s response was justified given the situation she was in and the experiences she had with similar ones, this quote can still be seen as showing her as a childish character because of Skloot’s use of diction such as “fine”.

Despite the fact that fine is usually utilized when someone wants to describe a situation as well, such as, “it went fine,” instead of, “it went well,” it can also be used ed when someone wants to inform someone that they will reluctantly do something. Although some may say that Deborah agreeing to talk to Skloot was a fairly mature response to the phone calls, and therefore does not suggest that she is a childish character, the way that she waited so long to respond and then upon doing so yelled her answer to Skloot, as seen by the exclamation marks, depicts her as a childish character.

Based on the societal norm of children not speaking if they do not receive what they want, and adults responding to any question, whether they have to say yes or no, Deborah can be seen as a childish character. By being a more child like character, Deborah allows for herself to be guided by Skloot, which implies a mother-daughter relationship. As with most organisms in the universe, Deborah Lacks did have a mother figure, although it was not her genetic mother, Henrietta Lacks, but instead Rebecca Skloot.

Throughout the book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Skloot can be seen as constantly treating Deborah as a child, while Deborah can constantly be seen as acting childish. Although this may seem awkward to many, this relationship created a long lasting friendship between the two, and allowed for Rebecca Skloot to write her book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.