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This short story by Bel Kauffmann begins Sunday late afternoon in the park, with the mother and the father watching their 3-year-old son Larry playing in the sandbox. The sun is out and the park is nearly empty. Larry is in the sandbox with another child, they are about the same age, but the other child is overweight. The parents are enjoying their time, the mother reads a book and the father, Morton, reads the Times Magazine section. The parents peaceful time was disturbed when the overweight child threw sand at Larry.
The mother was quick to react “no, no, little boy” she said. The mother was looking for the mother to the other child, but there was only a big man on the bench next to them. The boy threw sand at Larry again, the mother was quick to react again and told the little boy not throw with sand. Then the big man next to them opened his mouth and said “you go right ahead, Joe.
Throw all you want” Morton became aware of the situation. Morton was intimidated by the big man. The mother was scared that there would be a fight between the two men. Morton was a fragile man with glasses, he was so “city-pale” as the mother would say. Morton wanted to be a good role model for Larry, that’s why he took the mother and Larry and went straight for the exit of the park. Larry was crying, he didn’t want to leave.
The parents both dragged Larry out while he was crying. The mother got out relieved that there wasn’t a fight, but there was something buried deeper in her, a layer of something.
She wanted Morton to learn Larry how to deal with bullies by himself. Morton was different, he wanted to learn Larry to just go away whenever there is a bully. The mother got angry at Larry and told him “stop crying, I am ashamed of you” Larry then cried even louder. Morton turned to the wife and asked irritably “can’t you keep him quiet, for Pete’s sake?” The mother then said “what do you suppose I’ve been trying to do” then it snapped for Morton, he said “if you can’t discipline this child, I will” maybe because he felt so intimidated by the big man before. The mother was so shocked and said “indeed?” the mother heard herself say “you and who else?”
Normally the wives would try to stop a fight between their husband and another man, but this wife wouldn’t, mainly because she wanted to see the manly side of Morton. When the big man confronted Morton, he just turned his back to him and walked away. I think that Morton was the real man, and was good role model for Larry his son. When she said, “you and who else”, she might have suggested there will be another fight between the mother and the father, that could cost them their marriage. The real bully is the mother, her thoughts are really unmoral, you should never teach your kids to be a bully or fight the bullies. What Morton did was right, he just walked away like you should. I think Kaufmann’s morality of this story, is not to dominate other people with force or fight.
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