Birth Order and The Turner House

Birth order has always been a very intriguing topic to me, mainly because I see myself fitting very nicely in the trope of “oldest child.” In my youth, and still today, like to keep myself busy by being involved in a myriad of activities and clubs, I’m loud, bossy, and like to be the center of attention. My younger sister, the middle child, fits her prescribed path as well: she often feels as though she is “forgotten” and is much quieter and more reserved (my mother says this is because I did all the talking for her). As for my brother, the stereotypical “youngest child,” he is just as free-willed and spoiled as you might imagine.  

This New York Times article, however, argues that, “Birth order doesn’t cause anything” and that “It’s simply a proxy for the actual mechanisms that go on in family dynamics that shape character and personality,” according to Dr. Frank J. Sulloway. Enter the characters of The Turner House.  We talked in class about the potential effects of birth order on the way in which the characters interact with each other.  I feel as though the more siblings that are in a family, such as the case with the large Turner family in The Turner House, the effects of being the oldest and youngest child are amplified, while the “middle child syndrome” is lessened, because there are more people over which to spread the “ill” effects of not having an exact title in the family birth order.  This holds true in The Turner House, I believe, as Cha Cha and Lelah are two of the most prominent characters with the most developed personalities.

I’m sure you can find research that both agrees with and disputes the effects of birth order on certain characteristics, but I still think it’s an interesting idea to apply to a novel, to better understand the characters within it.

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