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It was on her 12th birthday when Leland Palmer bought a diary for his daughter Laura Palmer. It was that same year when he started abusing her. The purpose of the diary is the control over Laura. It represents a gateway into Laura’s introspection and a representative of her (non) realization of what is happening to her and who the person hurting her is. That birthday/dairy was a crossroad, although even before that moment there were some indications (since Laura is already mentioning a person named BOB) of what is about to be happening in the years to come, but it would be safe to assume that the actual molestation starts at that point – when Leland’s safety is guaranteed by the fact that in every moment he can be confident that Laura is not aware of his real identity.
Family can be defined as the basic economic, social, sociological and reproductive community. Family is the basic unit of modern society. “Twin Peaks” represents a pungent criticism of seemingly perfect and idyllic rural middle class of America, in which all the basic and best values should supposedly be embodied. In that criticism, the leading point is family, which is not only the “holy cow” of that society, but is also its’ basic unity. Therefore, derangement of society is shown in its’ roots. And if the root of society is deranged, how could the system possibly work?
Denial is one of the elements of human nature and, in some normal limitations, it can be found in each of us in everyday life. However, denial in the Palmer family crosses all normal boundaries and takes deranged dimensions. In her denial, Laura goes so far that not only does she speak to no-one about what is happening to her or ask anyone for help, but she also refuses to admit even to herself that the person in question is Leland, and instead of him she sees BOB and she convinces herself that BOB is a real person. Sarah is obviously completely aware of what is going on, but she consciously chooses to shut herself from the fact that there is a problem in the family. The knowledge of what is happening and her incapability of making a change bring her to shattered state of nerves. She chooses passiveness to maintain the illusion of a perfect all-American family. At one point in her diary (page 142), Laura says that it disturbs her parents, especially her mother, if anyone mentions BOB. She says: “Sometimes I think my Mom and I could be the best of friends. […] But she comes from a family and generation that doesn’t really like to talk about things that make them uncomfortable. Maybe BOB makes her feel uncomfortable. Maybe Dad knows BOB too, but Mom won’t let us talk about him because it makes everyone… so upset… I don’t know.” This indicates the fact that all members of the family are aware of what is going on, but they refuse to admit it.
The atmosphere in the Palmer house shifts from one extreme to the other in a blink of an eye. For instance, a parallel can be drawn between two family dinners. In one, which occurs on Thursday night (in the screenplay), there is the senseless conversation in which Leland teaches Laura and Sarah to introduce themselves in Norwegian (LELAND: “The Norwegians are coming next week and I want you to learn to say what I just learned in Norwegian. So you can talk to them. I want you to learn to say, ‘Hello, my name is Leland Palmer’.” ; LAURA: “But my name isn’t Leland Palmer.” […] Leland extends a hand to each of them. An air of insanity seems to come over the Palmer dining room as they all begin to laugh hysterically and talk in broken Norwegian). By contrast, on Friday night, there is the extremely unpleasant situation in which all members of the family finally take their masks off and start playing their true parts. It is at that point when we are, for the first time, openly shown how Laura’s role as the child in the family is violated by her father - in front of her mother, no less. There is a number of other indications of the true nature of the relationships in the Palmer family, which can be seen in entries from Laura’s diary:
· page 104: “I tried to talk to Dad at breakfast and he just sat there twitching, like he doesn’t have time for any extra thoughts. Doesn’t have time for the fucking suicide dreams his own daughter is having. Neither one of my parents will talk to me… What is this? Some kind of a dream?”
· Page 126: “I wanted to go home, sleep in my bed, be a little girl again. Fake an illness or cramps and ask Mom to take care of me. Read ‘Sleeping Beauty’ or ‘Stuart Little’, sip coffee while she turns pages, watches me.”
· Page 135: “BOB: YOUR PARENTS HAVEN’T KEPT ME FROM GETTING TO YOU, HAVE THEY? NEITHER ONE TALKS TO YOU THE WAY THEY USED TO. THEY STOPPED CARING A LONG TIME AGO. THEY PUT UP WITH YOU. NOTHING MORE.”
Leland treats Laura as his princess, perfect little daughter and at the same time, he molests her. However, as he is doing this he cannot admit to himself that she truly is a pure and innocent child and that she is not aware that he is the person abusing her. He needs Laura to take a piece of the blame in order to take that blame off himself, i.e. he needs to believe that she deserves it and that he is punishing her. By doing that he projects his own filth onto her. The only question is how it all began: did his and Sarah’s failed marriage encouraged him or did his actions cause the failure of their marriage?
One of the extremely important symbols when it comes to the Palmer family are flowers. The motif of flowers is found everywhere in the Palmer house: on wallpapers, paintings, bed sheets, on the door of Laura’s room, and maybe most importantly – on the front door of the house (a heart-shaped wreath!). All the flower motifs are, however, still nature – which symbolizes fake idyll, or something which should pose as beautiful and healthy but is actually already dead. On the other hand, there is the motif of the woods which stands for something very much alive, but ominous. The Palmer house must be compared with the Hayward house: at their front door there are plants on one side, and nothing on the other. This could mean that in the Hayward family there is no hidden side, no reflection, only what is visible exists.
(Incidentally, it is interesting to note that almost no children in Twin Peaks have siblings – Laura, Bobby, James, Mike, Maddy etc. The question is would the state of the Palmer family be different if Laura had a brother or a sister? Anyway, doesn’t an ideal all-American family have two or three kids?)