January 26, 2017 General Studies

In the short story Powder by Tobias Wolff there is an irrefutable relationship that is quite dissimilar. In these two characters of father and son we see a reflection of many modern day “broken home” situations. The standard role of father and son has been reversed in this story. Reversed in a way that real life and many modern day family situations have been replicated.

The development of the father character begins with his son’s flashback of being brought to a nightclub against the will of his mother. He wanted to bring his son to see jazz great Thelonious Monk. With this passage it was possibly Wolff’s intent to portray the father as a reckless parent with no regard for the welfare of his child. In the father’s defense we are left with a disclaimer that the father is only trying to institute a foundation of culture upon his son. The boy was not thrust into this environment with the intent of exposing him to the tribulations of a nightclub atmosphere. It becomes easy for the father to not hold back in the presence of his son. He does not have custody of the boy so he isn’t burdened with the role of disciplinarian. So when receiving time to spend with his son he is able to have fun and not worry about the effects of his teachings. .

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The boy who is our narrator throughout the story becomes Wolff’s opposition to the father character. Right through the story the boy demonstrates qualities of restraint and level headedness. Almost everything that the father lacks in values the son has made up for with nervous anticipation. The development of the boy’s cautious personality is initiated early in the story when him and his father are making their last run. He is depicted as “sticking to his father like white on rice.” This was an establishment of his tense but well aware personality. He seems to always be thinking ahead and calculating the dangers of his actions and the unpredictable measures of his father.


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