The short story ‘The Man of the House’ is a story in which a young child deals with a frightening experience.
a) Outline the situation that produces fear in the child. (5 marks)
b) Explain how the child deals with the fear experienced. (10 marks)
c) Discuss how the narrative technique affects the reader’s response to the ordeal of the child protagonist. (10 marks)
The short stories “The Man of the House” and “The Day the World almost came to an end”, written by Frank O’Connor and Pearl Crayton respectively, are both similar. Both stories involve a young child dealing with a frightening experience. For the child in each story, their experience produces fear, and the child has to try to handle or quell their fears. The fears and situations of each child are better understood through the narrative techniques of each unique author, making the reader’s response to the ordeal of the child protagonists better.
The mother of Flurry, the main character and protagonist in “The Man…” has become very sick. Flurry fears that this sickness will develop into pneumonia, and his mother will die. For anyone, the fear of a mother dying is a terrible experience, so for a ten year old innocent boy, it should be absolutely horrifying. In “The Day…”, the child protagonist’s experience is perhaps equally as terrifying. The speaker is an adult reflecting on her childhood as a young sinner. Her frightening experience occurs when she is twelve years old, living on a plantation that is all about religion. Simply put, the world is supposedly coming to an end, and being an unrepentant sinner, it means she will end up in hell, which is definitely not a place she would want to be “where a red horned Devil tormented folks with a pitch fork.” So now these child protagonists have to deal with their situations somehow.
In “The Man…”, Flurry decides that he will try everything he can to nurse his mother back to health. He stays home, makes the breakfast, goes to the public house to get her whiskey, gets the doctor and even goes to get the medicine that he prescribes. Only, he fails in his final attempt to help her as he drinks the medicine, under peer pressure from a girl, which is supposed to make her (the mother) better. Flurry goes home with no medicine for his mother and ends up sick, making a fool of himself in front of his mother’s friend, Minnie Ryan. In “The Day…”, the protagonist tries to calm her fears by reasoning with herself that the world cannot end, and she consults with her wise father to be assured that the world will still be around. This consultation ends up making her more fearful, and that night she runs screaming through the community that the world is going to end when she hears a loud racket in the sky. It turned out that the racket is actually an old aeroplane. There is a major similarity between both stories here, because in handling their fears they have managed to embarrass themselves in front of others.
Both stories are written in first person narrative point of view, and this narrative technique helps the reader to respond better to the protagonists’ situations. In “The Man …”, the first person narrative allows the reader to understand and empathise with Flurry when he fails his mother. The reader can see how he was pressured. In “The Day…”, through the use of flashback (recalling a childhood incident), the reader can see that the narrator who is an adult now understands that as a child she was foolish and in her present age she has matured.
So in both short stories, the protagonists had to endure frightening experiences. It is interesting then that for both short stories, the child protagonists’ situation have not turned out too badly in the end, because their original fears have not come to pass. Flurry’s mother has not died (in fact she begins to feel better by the time Flurry returns home ), and the world did not end for the young ‘sinner’.
-Written by Daniel Battick of 4 pool 2-
-Written by Daniel Battick of 4 pool 2-