This context is from The Children's Bach by Helen Garner.

‘How did you know where to find me?’

‘Morty told me.’

He was thinner. He stood without baggage in the ugly lobby.

‘Come home.’

‘No. I haven’t finished yet.’

‘Come home.’

‘I can’t.’

‘Let’s go home.’

‘I’ll never forgive you if you make me.’

‘Make you? How could I make you? I love you.’

She shrugged. ‘At home I was half dead.’

He began to cry. His face twisted, his mouth was lumpy. He gritted his teeth. He would not use the children against her, he would not. She saw him sob. She did not step closer. If he mentioned them, if he spoke their names, she would splinter. He was afraid of her. She had the stance and the expression of an idiot struck dumb, but an idiot who was holding an axe. He turned and shoved out the door and on to the street.

Does "He would not use the children against her, he would not" mean: He did not want to make the children hate her?

Or he did not want to say to her that because of their children she had to come back home?

And does " If he mentioned them, if he spoke their names, she would splinter" mean: If he talked about their children and said to her that because of them she had to come back home she would be very annoyed?

Can we say "she would splinter" means: She would die?


1 Answer 1


He would not use the children against her, he would not means that he will not manipulate her into returning by saying the children miss her, or the children need her, or she is abandoning her children. He wants her to return of her own free will, because she loves him and their life together; not because she feels guilty about the children. So your second interpretation is correct: he does not want to say that she should come home for the sake of the children.

She would splinter means that her strength and resolve would shatter. She is determined to stay away from him, their children, and their home. But to do that, she has to overcome her guilt about the children. If he mentions the children, then her guilt will be overwhelming and she will no longer feel strong enough to stay away. It does not mean that she will be annoyed or that she will die.

  • Lots of thanks, And I have another question. Dose the sentence "she didn't step closer" means literally or metaphorical? Dose it mean: she stoped saying anything or it just mean: she did not come closer to him? Or because she was shocked she stood still without moving? Mar 1, 2021 at 14:08
  • 1
    She literally does not step closer to comfort him when he sobs, which gives us a clue to her mental state: she no longer feels enough love for him to want to approach him even when he's in distress. Probably because she is in distress too and needs to protect her own feelings.
    – verbose
    Mar 1, 2021 at 14:13

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.