The short story ”Ernie Breaks” by Genevieve Scott is about ten year old Cara, who lives with her mother and her older brother, Jed. The main themes in the short story are responsibility and expectations. It can be elaborated to what you have to do, so you can live up to challenges you are approaching, and to succeed something that you are contemplate responsible for. Sometimes you cannot determine the expectations people have for you, or the responsibility is just too big for your shoulders. Another perspective is other people can also set question marks about the expectations they have for you, or sometimes your effort is just not enough to fulfill other people’s expectations. Shortly to sum up the themes, the story reflects a regular problem concerning too high expectations and responsibility for young people.
At the end of every school semester their mother always buys them a passing present. The two siblings want a puppy, but their mother says it requires too much time. Instead, they got a turtle to share. The turtle is named Ernie.
The theme and the central ideas are mostly told through the narrator, Cara. She is a young and precarious girl who lives with her mother and brother. She is not very intelligent, for example line 85-87 “I don’t understand why we have to learn about broken numbers. If something is broken, it’s wrecked and useless anyway. If it’s not your fault that it’s broken, you usually don’t need to care about it” This quote can be referred to the whole story, especially the last sentence when she kills the turtle.
The expectations and responsibility for Cara is visible, because she is meant to take care of Ernie, but accidentally kills him by dropping him on the floor. Even though she kills him, Cara did not say a word to her mother, therefore the mother believes she has accomplished her responsibility for Ernie. It is easier for Cara to not tell the truth then admitting she failed her mother’s expectations. In addition to the quote’s last sentence, she says herself that if it’s not your fault that it’s broken, you usually don’t need to care about it. In this case, it is her fault that “it’s” broken, consequently she should take care of it. She contradicts her self by not telling the truth.
Cara’s relationship to her brother is like every other sibling relationship. They are not nice to each other, but at the end of the day, they have each other’s back. Jed is the one who get to keep Ernie in his room, but they shared playing with him fifty-fifty. Since they both are allowed to play with him, the responsibility is also equally shared. In the text Jed acts tough in front of his friend, Toby by ignoring his little sister. For instance in the text line 116-120 “I look at Ernie’s tiny, twitching legs and I feel like I’m going to be sick. “Don’t do it, Jed!” I say, “You’ll hurt him” Jed looks up at me, hair hanging over his eyes. “Private property” He says. “You’re being mean,” I say.
“Don’t be so gay” Toby says. “Turtles don’t feel anything. They have shells” This quote shows that she wants to get his attention, and feels sad because he does not listen to her. A typical older brother, who tries to be cool and act tough in front of his friends. Jed also fails the expectations his mother have for him because he played with Ernie’s little life in a short string.
The symbols in the text are clearly more or less. Firstly, the turtle symbolizes responsibility the two siblings need to take care of. The mother trusts them by giving them a pet, so they can share about the responsibility, but unfortunately ruins it. They do not tell her anything that has been going on while the mother is away. This shows the lack of responsibility of Cara and Jed. Another symbol can be Quit4Life, an organization that helps people stop smoking. Their mother is attending to their “get together”, but secretly she still smokes. That means she is lying to Quit4Life and the same is her children, when Ernie dies. That cannot be a coincidence. It is all about social heritage. The way their mother is in the society will eventually reflect on her children. She is their everyday role model. They look up to her, and since she is lying to other people, why shouldn’t the children lie.