Re-imagining Teresa… and other characterizations

I so wanted Teresa to be Mexican American, but she’s a willowy, ghostly blonde like the women in the Wyeth paintings. She was raised white trash, was the first in her family to attempt college—a lot of the story is the same, but I’m not able to pull this diversity into the story. Todd, on the other hand may be half-Latino. His mother, deceased while Todd was rather young, was someone that Rev. Eaton met on a mission trip, fell in love with, got pregnant and married. There’s a lot of this going around, but it won’t all make it into the story. The idea is that life is precious, and sins of pride encourage us to stifle life and throw it away.

Theresa (now the “h” returns) has the last name of Phillips. She is from a relatively rootless, California family. her mother is a waitress, and her father was an actor with lots of charisma—and not much in the way of paternal skills. They were pregnant young, and married young—Theresa’s Mom and Dad—and bear some resemblance to Chuckie’s family in the MetroBoysClub series.

But Theresa is white trash. White trash attempting to do good, but trapped by the victimization of her charismatic psychotherapist who tells her constantly how beautiful she is, and how her sexuality is so strong he can’t possibly resist it. She believes this, and enjoys the power she can exert over him in the erotic realm. Now. Just because she is being abused doesn’t mean her sexuality is without power, but she comes to demonize it as Newton blames her again and again for “leading” him “into temptation.” Theresa is from a Catholic family and her grandmother Barbara (who died relatively young of breast cancer) saw to it that she was raised a good Catholic. Theresa gets her name from the holy Theresas of legend, from Theresa of Avila to Thérèse de Lisieux. She is a true contemplative and this influences Stephan greatly, even though no one can see the influence. She secretly approves of Stephan’s being mentored by Adam and hopes that he will pursue a religious vocation. To atone for her sin? Perhaps. I think she dedicated Stephan to God as a way of assuaging her shame at becoming pregnant—or even sexual—before marriage. She always regrets having gotten married at a small Episcopal Church of Newton’s wealthy family. Newton’s mother and father did not attend, but the priest took pity on the young couple. Newton’s mother was very cutting and disapproving of the situation and Newton’s father was very distant.

How young is Newton when this happens? Newton’s father, Michael Stephan Newton I, is a surgeon, detached, disciplined, a provider. Young Newton was passionate and had some religious leanings, but his father brow-beat them out of him, emphasizing rationality and discipline. This only forced down Newton’s passions and fueled his obsession with the art and science of plumbing the depths of the soul through psychiatry. His passionate, physical, erotic side gets totally projected onto young, blonde women.

Newton is a strong, athletic and good-looking guy who is used to getting everything that he wants except approval from his dad. He played football and golf in college (Harvard), is a man’s man, likes to drink beer. Did very well in Med School and in his residency. His decision to become a psychiatrist rather than a surgeon of some sort scandalized his dad who didn’t consider psychiatry to be a real science or an art and felt that all psychiatrists were pompous, know-it-all, homosexuals and Jews. Lots of anti-Semitism in the Newton family. and anti-gay stuff. Newton’s brother, Stephan’s Uncle Jerry is gay, and the whole family shunned him as he was dying with AIDS.

What about the Pritchetts? Pritchett is another golden boy. That’s why he and Newton get along so well. Pritchett was a star at a small, liberal arts college, married his college sweetheart, then did very well at Law School while she—and her family—footed the bill. Then he returned to the life of a small-town lawyer, living off his wife’s money and prestige, but doing very well. Mrs. Pritchett would have preferred to live somewhere more cosmopolitan, like New York, or even Boston, but Pritchett loves being a big fish in a little pond.

Does Adam like being a big fish in a little pond? Well, you have to like some of that in order to be a priest of a small congregation, but Adam is happy to be toiling quietly in his corner of the vineyard. Phil ribs him because “for a guy named Adam, you’re terrible with plants.” People have given Adam plants over the years which he has killed through neglect. The grounds of All Saints’ would be desolate if it weren’t for Betty’s natural green thumb and her generous donation to fund God’s Green Earth (Phil’s landscaping company) to keep the remaining trees of the apple orchard and gardens lush and beautiful. 11.48-12.34.

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