Home > family relationships, General, women's issues > Oldest daughters and the meaning of identity: an unexpected tale

Oldest daughters and the meaning of identity: an unexpected tale

If I ever thought I was the only oldest daughter out there trying to get a handle on who my true self really is, Fannie Flagg has let me know I’m anything but that.  In her latest  novel, The All Girls Filling Station’s Last Reunion, issues of self- and family-identity are front and center–interlaced with humor.

Flagg never comes right out and calls her principal characters  “oldest daughters,” but as readers learn,  each of them is the oldest child and first-born female in her family.

  • The primary protagonist, Sookie (Mrs. Earle) Poole, has one younger brother.    The expectations of Sookie were set early and often–to be a leader in society.  A traumatic revelation leads Sookie to challenge herself and what she’s always considered her fate: the obligation to live up to family expectations.
  • Fritzi Jurdabralinski, the heroine of Flagg’s story within a story, is the oldest of five children.  From early on, there’s no question that the leadership trait exists full-blown in her, as do the nurturing, protecting genes.
  • Lenore, the matriarch of the family is the oldest of the first-born females in this novel.  The mother of Sookie, she personifies the traits that many consider stereotypical of oldest daughters: take charge/bossy.

I find it difficult to believe  that a masterful writer like Flagg would create characters without carefully considering what attributes and personalities she’s giving them.  So why did she make each of three leading characters the oldest child/first-born female??? I googled Fannie Flagg to see if perhaps she, herself, is an oldest daughter.  No such information.

So I’m left to wonder:  Was it just happenstance that these  characters in Flagg’s latest novel are oldest daughters?

Or did Flagg know that readers would find her characters believable as leaders and risk-takers because they are oldest daughters?

Whatever — Have you read anything else in which the main character (heroine or villain) acts as she does because she’s an oldest daughter?

  1. March 12, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    Great comments! I just read MY ANTONIA. The oldest daughters of farmers in pioneer days were expected to help “break the sod.” Love your blogs. Look forward to your book. D’Ann

  2. Pat Schudy
    March 18, 2014 at 3:28 am

    It’s been years since I’ve read MY ANTONIA, and I hadn’t remembered anything specific being said about oldest daughters. Thanks for the info!

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