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For I could easily afford to keep my mother and wife too. ‘ This conveys that from Phillips point of view, women are the responsibility of men and this also reflects his upbringing as through the environment he has been brought up in, he has gained the arrogance of being able to believe that he is higher than women and that women to him, are something that must be brought in order to look after or ‘keep’ them. Bennett stereotypes the arrogance of men in society through the assumptions that Phillip makes about his mother.
This is shown as when in the text Phillip comes to know that dinner was set for three; he immediately thought that it was something to do with him, that his fianci?? e Agnes was arriving he did not consider the fact that the guest could be for his mother. By presenting Phillip like this, Bennett is suggesting that Phillip is portraying the arrogance of the male in society; However, Phillip can not be blamed for his attitude towards women in society as he was merely acting of the confines of the social rules within the society that he was brought up in at the time.
This is shown as at the end of the story, Phillip realises that the arrogance he was brought up with was wrong as when Phillip realises that his mother is engaged, he states ‘I had never thought of my mother as a woman with a future. ‘ By saying this, Phillip admits that his views were not necessarily correct as he never thought his mother had a future or a life of her own but after hearing the ‘news of the engagement’ from his mother and Mr Nixon, he realises that he was wrong and admits this by simply stating ‘we live and we learn’.
Through ‘news of the engagement’ Bennett shares the views of Phillip towards the relationship between him and his mother, leaving the reader to assume that Phillip’s mother has an unfair status within society and that her views are different to those of her sons’ views. This is shown as Phillip wouldn’t share his personal matters with his mother, he tells the reader this by stating ”….. you can’t write even to your mother…..
In cold blood: ‘I think Agnes likes me” by saying this, Phillip is implying that his mother and him do not have a close relationship as he can’t tell his mother about his engagement, he also shows that his mothers opinion doesn’t count or matter as he states ‘ she might be a little bit hurt – just at first ‘. Here, Bennett insinuates to the reader that Phillip has been brought up to be independent enough to perform personal matters without involving his mother as she isn’t very important to him; although he believes that he means everything to his mother as he is the only man in her life.
However, nearly to the end of the story, the reader comes to know that Phillips mother feels exactly the way towards Phillip as he does towards her, this is shown as Mr Nixon states ‘…….. she couldn’t have well written, “My dear Phillip, an old friend, Mr Nixon, is falling in love with me and I believe I’m falling in love with him. ……….. “‘. This proves that Phillips’ mother is also a product of her environment as she also implies that she believes her sons’ opinion does not count or matter and that he does not need to be involved in her personal matters.
This is very ironic as at the start of the story Phillip’s environment lead him to believe that he couldn’t write in a letter to his own mother that he is getting engaged then, in the end, Phillip learned that his mothers’ environment also lead her to believe that she couldn’t write in a letter to her own son that she is getting engaged, this changed Phillip’s views as he realises the irony and the views that his society and environment brought him to believe he admits his mistake by simply stating ‘we live and we learn’.
Bennett simply comments on society, inferring simple messages such as ‘we live and we learn’, he does not criticise society through his stories, unlike Charles dickens, who sends highly critical messages across about society through his famous stories such as ‘a Christmas carol’ and ‘Oliver! ‘ . Bennett’s stories are inferred comments about social and historical issues and how they are or should change, he explores the upbringing and status of the characters in ‘news of an engagement’ and implies the change in society after the main character realises the irony of the relationship between him and his mother.