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When Frank was still a baby, not even walking yet, Frank Senior, their father, had set out to teach his son the meaning of the word no.

In Tobias Wolff’s “The Night in Question,” two different and opposing relationships between fathers and sons are revealed.  There is a large contrast between these two relationships, one built on fear and mistrust, and the other built on love and sacrifice. Frank’s relationship with his father, Frank Senior, consists of abuse and violence, while Benny’s relationship with his father, Mike, shows love and affection. The contradiction of these two relationships reveals the importance of father-son dynamics and how the father’s actions ultimately affect the entirety of his son’s life. In the beginning of the story, it is revealed through Frances, the protagonist of the story and sister to Frank, that their father was an abusive man. When Frank was little, his father attempted to teach him the lesson no. Instead of positive affirmation and rewards to encourage Frank, his father would simply beat him whenever he reached for his watch. This was the first of many times that Frank Senior would resort to his fist rather than his words to make sure his authority was followed by his children.

Later on, Frances, when mentioning how her husband disapproved of Frank, stated that her husband could not understand Frank’s delinquent actions because he had never gone through the abuse that Frank had, and thus his perspective on life was entirely different. France’s husband saw Frank’s dependence on Frances like that of a leech on its prey. However, Frances saw Frank’s actions as someone who seeks comfort from the one person who cared about him during their violent childhood lives where they were never shown love. In contrast with Frank and his father’s relationship, the story of Benny and his father, Mike, show the epitome of love and the father-son dynamic. Mike deeply cares for his son and shows this by making a large effort to spend time with him and make sure he is taken care of. Mike is proud of Benny’s personality, which consists of high energy and a deep curiosity about the world. Mike’s love for his son is shown even in his sacrifice, where he is devasted at the thought of losing him, and feels personally responsible even though he did not make Benny go down to the engine room and had told him many times not to.

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