These are not the adjectives one would use to describe someone who changed the world, but they are the exact words to describe a perfectly bland housewife who sought nothing beyond the washing of her front windows. However, unlike the fictional versions of housewives on television, real-world women did not often take to the role of domesticity and the Cult of Consumerism with docility and without hesitation or reservation. She harbored other interests which could only be expressed inside of the home; that is until she achieved a level of success in the world of gardening. Daisy read books which means she had a mind and a brain that begged to be allowed to be freed from her mundane existence and to be nourished through the obtaining of knowledge.
One of the most interesting and telling components of the chapter is a chronological listing of all the illnesses and ailments that Daisy has had to deal with during her lifetime. Daisy was born consumed by the concept of death. Her mother died during childbirth and this left an indelible impression on the newborn that death was ever present and could strike at any time. Throughout the story, Daisy has had to deal with scores of illnesses and various losses, each one making her somehow darker and more distressed than the one before; each instance enumerated in the final chapter. The list reads:
Colic, chicken pox, measles, bronchial pneumonia, allergies, influenza, menstrual cramps, eczema, cystitis, childbirth, blood pressure, menopause, depression, angina, blocked arteries, broken bones, coronary bypass, kidney failure, cancer, bladder infection, stroke, bed sores, ulcerated leg, incontinence, stroke, memory loss, failing eyesight, inappropriate response, speech deficiency, depression, stroke, stroke (Shields 357).
This listing shows exactly what the woman has had to deal with physically and emotionally within her own body and the psychological toll it had taken as well. It is also interesting that although most people would not include menstrual cramps or childbirth as medical illnesses or injuries, Daisy certainly does. Even natural processes involving the body are to her associated with pain, illness, and subsequently with death.
For years, Daisy had lingered on despite steadily declining health, having been diagnosed with heart disease, is made to be bedridden and this has ironically granted her a new and more honest perspective of the realities of life and of all human existence. Her entire life had been closely associated with death and it seems that only through living within a close proximity of her own demise can she truly live and indeed reflect on how little she had lived. In the final chapter, Shields writes:
Flett, Daisy (nee Goodwill), who, due to historical accident, due to carelessness, due to ignorance, due to lack of opportunity and courage, never once in her many years of life experienced the excitement and challenge of oil painting, skiing, sailing, nude bathing, emerald jewelry, cigarettes, oral sex, pierced ears, Swedish clogs, water beds, science fiction, pornographic movies, religious ecstasy, truffles, Kirsch, jalapeno peppers, Peking duck, Vienna, Moscow, Madrid, group therapy, body massage, hunger, distinguished honors, outraged condemnation, who never drove a car, never bought a lottery ticket, never, never (on the other hand) was struck on the face or body by another being, never once perched her reading glasses (with a sigh) in the crown of her hair, never (for fear of ridicule) investigated the possibilities of plastic surgery or yoga, never gave herself over to the kind of magazine article that tells you to be good to yourself, to believe in yourself and do things for yourself. Nor, though she knew she had been loved in her life, did she ever hear the words "I love you, Daisy" uttered aloud (such a simple phrase), and only during the long, thin, uneventful sleep that preceded her death did she have the wit (and leisure) to ponder the injustice of this" (344-45).
Throughout her long life, encompassing some eighty years up to the point of this passage, Daisy has not really lived. She has accomplished nothing of substance according to her own system of values. She has experienced nothing of extreme joy nor had she felt physical abuse. There have not been enough moments of pleasure and breaking of social taboos to overcome the misery of her birth and upbringing. In the time near death, Daisy realizes that she has allowed the deaths of the women in her life to completely dominate her existence and now it is too late to seek out joy of any kind. The woman had correctly predicted that she would live in misery as her health slowly left her body, but she did not anticipate the way such living would affect her. As an invalid, she had spent many years in a semiconscious state, not really alert or awake and not quite unconscious either. However, this existing in between states furthers her ability to see life clearly.
She lies in her bed for years and with her mind free for the first time, free from social pressure and free from gender demands, she can foresee events that will appear following her eventual death, including what her children will infer about their mother after finding certain items in her home. One thing that her offspring find after her death is fingernail clippings which have been kept in a velvet box (Shields 344). No explanation is given for this finding, and the response of her children is simply "Christ" (344). It is a humanistic touch, one of the many idiosyncrasies of Daisy Flett which make her closer to a real person. There are things about their mother that she has never shared with her children, such as her version of her first marriage which they will learn about through finding her papers. Among the myriad of items that the children find are clues about their mother's identity, things of which they had never been aware. Some of these things are hidden talents, such as the ability to embroider (Shields 349). There are certain things which a mother is reluctant to tell her children, which is a real-world problem. Parents are reluctant to tell children about their mistakes or about periods of their life that they regret because they want their children to emulate their successes rather than their failings. Also, parents may not want to reveal private things with their children because it might give the child some degree of pain. One such example is the evidence of a forgotten or unfulfilled dream. Some adults have visions of what they want out of life, ambitions which can be thwarted when children are born. Parents tend to bury the evidence of such dreams when it becomes evident that there is no chance of ever seeing the dream become a reality.
The fictional autobiography concerns the life of Daisy Goodwill Flett, a life consume by early loss and ultimately obsessed with death. For the entirety of the novel, Daisy has been slowly dying just as all people, once born are on the path to their own mortal ends, whether in childhood, young adulthood, or old age. In the novel's final pages, Daisy comes to her life's end, reflecting on the unfairness of human existence and on how little she has done and felt; a testament to the likelihood in all people to fail to realize the life they have refused to live until they are faced with the loss of the opportunity to live.