Turn the Other Cheek
Sunday in the Park is a short story by Bel Kaufmann and was written in 1985.
The story is about a family enjoying a Sunday in the park but suddenly another boy throws sand at the families 3-year-old. The family tries to stop the other boy but his father encourages him to continue and now there is a conflict between the two fathers.
The family father is called Morton and is a middle-aged man. He is an upper-middle-class educated man and works as a university teacher. He is a nice, city-pale man who rarely ever is angry, and very polite and reads The Times. Morton tries to confront the other boy’s father by pleasantly saying “You’re quite right”…”but just because this is a public place. …” But then he gets interrupted by the other father and Morton immediately gets insecure but he tries to continue speaking politely “Now, just a minute,”…”you must realize. …” but again he gets interrupted by the other father and this time Morton rises but so does the other father and he is both bigger and stronger than Morton. Morton gets very pale and thinks for a moment on what to do and decides to leave the park.
Morton leaves the park and avoids a possible fight. He leaves the fight maybe because he is an educated man who does not fight and it is not the right thing to do but probably mostly because he feels that he would have lost the fight. Morton is both physically weaker and also weaker in the sense that he can not talk his way out of the situation, which could make him mad since he is an educated man who should be able to win an argument against a more stupid man. The other man takes Morton’s best defense from him, his words.
The other fathers name we do not know but he is also a middle-aged man. He is a working class probably not educated and we do not know his profession. He is described as a big, rude and impolite, ignorant, he spits and reads comic books. When the conflict between him and Morton arises he seems very eager to make it a bigger conflict and fight Morton because he knows that he is bigger and stronger. Every time Morton tries to speak politely to him he is very hostile and answers with an ignorant response as in “You go right ahead
Joe,”…”Throw all you want. This here is a public sandbox.” when Morton’s wife says that other boy, Joe, must not throw sand. Even tough it probably, especially since it is children is true I would not say that it is a legitimate argument.
The mothers reaction is interesting. She is filled with rage against the other man becausehe puts Morton in a situation he is not used to be in, “. “She was suffused with tenderness for her husband and an impotent rage against the man for involving him in a situation so alien and distasteful to him.”. In this quote we really see how distant this situation is from Morton’s regular life.we also see how his wife reacts to his attempts to solve the conflict. We also see what his wife thinks about his attempts to solve the conflict, she is suffused with a tenderness for her husband. It seems as if she is a bit embarrassed by Morton but yet she understands why he does not know how to handle the situation. The other man seems delighted that the situation is getting more tense as if he really wants a fight.
When both men are standing looking at each other she thinks that the situation is dreadful yet amazing, as if she wants Morton to fight the other man. She wants to see him act like a real man and stand up for his family but she knows that Morton most likely get beaten. She knows she must do something but does not. Before leaving she summons all the dignity she could and here we really see how uncomfortable the situation has made her, she is happy that the fight has been avoided. Yet she feels that it is so uncomfortable because she felt it had something to do with her and Morton, something personal, familiar and important.
As the family is walking she starts shouting at Larry saying that she is ashamed of him indicating that this situation has made her annoyed and ashamed but it might not be Larry she is the most ashamed of. Maybe she wanted Larry to throw sand back at the other kid and not just look at her asking what to do but at the same time she should be proud that her son knows what is right.
The story ends with Morton saying ““Can’t you keep him quiet, for Pete’s sake?”…”If You can’t discipline this child, I will,” Morton snapped making a move toward the boy. But her voice stopped him… “Indeed”…”You and who else?””.  She repeats what the other man had said to Morton when he was trying to solve the conflict. It really shows how weak she think he is, as if he is not able to discipline his own son, as if he can not win a “fight” against a three-year-old. The end also shows how mad and disappointed Morton is of him self, since he reacts that violently because his son is crying.
The theme could be standing up for yourself and your family because that is what the story is about and we see the result when Morton does not stand up for him self.
Violence is never the real answer to a conflict but sadly it is often the only way to find a solution. Fighting violence with violence is very hypocritical but you could see it being necessary in some cases. If the opponent will not listen to your arguments and he starts attacking you it would maybe not be the smartest idea to keep preaching your arguments. Violence should always be tried to solved by communication and that was exactly the problem in this story. Morton tried to say why he believed the kid should not throw sand at his son’s face but the other man did not listen. Morton then had three choices: fight, keep talking, which probably would inevitably end in a fight, or running away. I think he made the right choice by running away, one must know his battles and this was not one of his. If he would have tried to fight the other man it would maybe save some of his honor but if his son saw him getting beat up it could make him think that his father was weak and cause him to loose some respect of his father. His wife might have been more proud of him if he stood up for his family or it could make her even more embarrassed.
Sunday in the Park, Bel Kaufman, page 98, line 18-19.
Sunday in the Park, Bel Kaufman, page 98, line 30.
Sunday in the Park, Bel Kaufman, page 98, line 10-11.
Sunday in the Park, Bel Kaufman, page 98, line 28-29.
Sunday in the Park, Bel Kaufman, page 98, line 28-29.