Connection Between Teenage Pregnancy and Socioeconomic Status
As a resident of Mississippi for the majority of my life, I have become more familiar with teenage pregnancy than most. In addition, Mississippi was recently the focus of national news with the recent vote to illegalize abortion. T. C. Boyle chooses a debatable subject to write about drawing many discussions about ethics.
However, Boyle attempts to bring more light to teenage pregnancy, and gives the reader a different side than commonly assumed about teenage pregnancy. Often assumptions are made about the socioeconomic status of the teenager that is expecting. This has attached a stigma to the female expecting, and categorizing her character and status in society. However, teenage pregnancy is not an epidemic that plagues the people of lower socioeconomic statuses. In the short story “The Love of My Life,” T. C. Boyle severs the connection between socioeconomic status and teenage pregnancy.
At first glance, “The Love of My Life” appears to follow the same assumptions that connect socioeconomic standards and teenage pregnancy because the two topics are thematically placed throughout the short story. The author purposefully informs the reaer of he class system the characters are categorized in. Boyle begins character development with the description of how in love the couple is by describing how close they are with each other’s families. By doing so the reader learns that China has a typical nuclear family as an only child with expectations of success.
Confirmed by Boyle later in the short story he writes, “She was spoiled, he could see that now, spoiled by her parents and their standard of living and socioeconomic expectations of her class—of his class—and the promise of life as you like it, an unscrolling vista of pleasure and acquisition” (141). This quote characterizes China well, as well as provides the reader with the affirmation of her class status. Jeremy is grouped in with China when the author discusses the socioeconomic status of China.
In addition the reader can also make assumptions about the characters’ socioeconomic statues based on the colleges chosen, or rather the talk of colleges and college prep. The common stigma that society places on teenagers who get pregnant is thematically placed through the novel as well. In China’s own words the author recalls a previous statement made by China showing the common assumptions about teenage pregnancy. Boyle writes, “I will never, never be like those breeders that bring their puffed-up squalling little red-faced babies to class” (139).
Breeders, makes the reader not only think of a large number of people because of teenage pregnancy, but people of low socioeconomic status because more people means more mouths to feed and less money.
China just like many others take part in attaching this sort of stigma to teenage pregnancy, but this is the moment with the author severs those ties demonstrating to the reader that even someone of China’s status could become part of the percentage of teenage pregnancies. When discussed in class, the question was brought up, “How can someone educated make such a poor decision like this? Early on in the story China does what the reader expects of someone in her socioeconomic status to be doing.
The main character is focused on getting into a good school, and is in the top ten in her class. However, she ends up becoming part of a less desirable percentage on a camping trip with her boyfriend just before they head off to college. T. C. Boyle talks about socioeconomic status and teenage pregnancy in such close context to show that they are not related. Teenagers that come from better socioeconomic backgrounds are just as susceptible to pregnancy as teenagers from low socioeconomic backgrounds.
The common mistake that China and Jeremy make in “The Love of My Life” is that they seem to believe that they are invincible because of their socioeconomic status. The behavior of China makes the reader think that she is even in denial about the entire pregnancy. It seems as if in the mind of China, admitting to being pregnant would in fact make her pregnant. The only person aware of the pregnancy is Jeremy. T. C. Boyle conveys this avoidance in his style of writing as well. The pregnancy is not mentioned first when the author updates the reader on the character’s lives.
Boyle writes, “She was pregnant. Pregnant, they figured since the camping trip, and it was their secret” (140). The drama and focus of the couple’s worries are for the effects on their own lives rather than the pregnancy itself, which is vaguely discussed and hidden. When Jeremy tries to confront China about going to the doctor, “She wouldn’t respond. Wouldn’t even look at him” (Boyle 140). The reader can see a detachment from China and the pregnancy, and the only emotion that is expressed from her is when she thinks of others knowing she is pregnant.
T. C. Boyle chooses to focus the character’s attention on the effects of their lives in order to show teenage pregnancy from a different socioeconomic point of view. By doing so, the author destroys the misconception that teenage pregnancy is only difficult for people of lower socioeconomic status. However, there is a very real pressure that China receives from growing up in a higher socioeconomic status. China is expected to be just as successful if not more successful than her parents, which is what fuels her drive for academic success.
China viewed her life as ruined by the pregnancy, and the disappointment from the people who expected something from her was too much to handle. The author emphasizes how devastating it would be for people to find out, “she told him that she would die, creep out into the woods like some animal and bleed to death, before she’d go to a hospital. With a combination of her detachment from her pregnancy and the pressure to succeed, China and Jeremy make another in a long list of bad decisions, and they get rid of the baby themselves.
It was the only decision that kept their secret which they believed would ruin their life. Teenage pregnancy is not something that only effects people of low socioeconomic status and is equally as difficult to deal with. T. C. Boyle chooses a character of higher socioeconomic status to sever the connection between socioeconomic status and teenage pregnancy. They are factors that affect each other in the difficulties that will be faced, but one does not define the other.