St Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves is a literary work of Karen Russell, published in 2006. The story zeroes in on the lives of three human girls with werewolf mothers. The nuns take Jeanette, Claudette, and Mirabelle from their mothers to be raised as humans at St. Lucy’s home. The first transition stage seems rather exciting for the girls as Claudette walks the audience through the excitement of breaking their promises to the parents: the promise to be lady-like, kempt, and civilized (Russell 1). The girls undergo five transitional stages in which they are expected to transform into humans in the last stage fully. The main character and narrator of the story, Claudette, struggles through the stages to find her identity and eventually become human. As her name suggests, she is caught in a dilemma of becoming human and remaining a wolf. While Claudette experiences the greatest challenge transitioning through the stages, she realizes the most remarkable positive transformation. The idea of nature versus nurture becomes more explicit as Claudette and her sister Jeanette abandon their wolf ways and become humans. This analysis evaluates the reliability of Claudette as the narrator, the influence of her views on the audience, nature’s dominance in the end, and Claudette’s character’s influence on the story’s plot.
The narrator, Claudette, is one of the girls taken from their werewolf mothers to be raised as humans at St. Lucy’s home. Claudette is the middle child falling between Jeanette and Mirabelle. Russell develops Claudette as the narrator of the story because she epitomizes the struggles the girls undergo through their transitional stages to become humans as she is caught in the middle of it all. She notes, “I was one of the good girls. Not great and not terrible, solidly middle of the pack” (Russell 4). Claudette exudes an ethical appeal that establishes her authority to be the story’s narrator. First, she is one of the girls being reformed at St. Lucy’s. She is the middle sister among the three. Therefore, she understands the struggles and details of the story from first-hand experience. Being the middle one in the pack, she leverages her position to avoid the sisters’ hate towards the other girls in the pack.
Narrator’s influence on the audience
As Claudette unwraps the story, viewers are drawn into more like the adolescent life the girls are forced to grow out of. At first, the girls are excited by the turn of events in their lives. They explore the new environment with gratitude and appreciation, as reflected in their decision to forego everything their parents taught them. Claudette notes, “We tore through the austere rooms, overturning dresser drawers, pawing through the neat piles of the Stage 3 girls’ starched underwear” (Russell 1). In this initial stage, the audience can only buy into the excitement that gradually becomes a struggle to fit into a new era and identity. As the girls are forced to transition to become humans, they begin to experience the struggle and troubles of being stripped of an identity given to them by nature. Claudette’s world becomes blurry through the stages, from their initial real world to the current real world. The girls move from not knowing what to do with their newly acquired independence to struggling to escape the dilemma. Claudette remains unsure for the longest time about becoming human or retaining her wolf identity. The audience can find something to relate to in this scenario because once in a lifetime, they feel insulated in an identity or phase that gives them comfort and discomfort.
Nature vs. Nurture
The contrast between nature and nurture becomes more explicit as the girls transition through the stages. Claudette and her sisters initially struggle to become humans. Initially, the girls find it quite daunting to conform to the training and expectations of the nuns. They hated the idea of leaving the identity nature had given them to conform to the current environment of nurture. By stage 3, Claudette and Jeanette had significantly transformed. Claudette seemingly had the most difficulty in the initial stage but registered the most transformation by this stage. In the fourth stage, Jeanette admits that everything is becoming easy. She asks, “Hey, Claudette,” Jeanette growled to me on the day before the ball. “Have you noticed that everything’s beginning to make sense?” (Russell 8). Nurture eventually wins when Claudette and Jeanette fully transform. Unfortunately, Mirabelle does not transform and goes back to her parents.
Claudette is the narrator at the center of the story. Her transformation is remarkable by the last stage as she fully transforms into a human. As her name suggests, Claudette is caught in an enclosure by birthright and decision-making. She is the middle daughter enveloped by Jeanette and Mirabelle. She is confused about trading her wolf identity for humanity. At stage two, the girls eagerly wanted to run away. Claudette says, “The whole pack was irritated, bewildered, depressed. We were all uncomfortable and between languages. We had never wanted to run away so badly in our lives. Claudette’s journey through the stages exhibits strength, fearfulness, and determination. She is the center of the story.
Conclusively, the story mirrors the challenges of adapting to a new environment, especially if the environmental factors contradict the genetic foundation of an individual. Claudette, the story’s narrator, establishes herself as a worthy narrator because she experiences the events first-hand. Through her viewpoint, the audience can craft a complex phase in life in which one is encapsulated between comfort and discomfort. Claudette and Jeanette’s successful transformation into humans communicate the value of determination and tolerance.
Russell, Karen. St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves. New York: Vintage Books, 2006. https://catalogimages.wiley.com/images/db/pdf/9781119124443.excerpt.pdf