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She was eight years old, and while she feared her father’s attention she also missed it, and resented Frank’s obstinacy and the disturbance it caused. Why couldn’t he learn?

In the short story “The Night in Question,” by Tobias Wolff, the story follows the lives of two siblings named Frances and Frank. Frances and Frank endured a very rough childhood by losing their mother to ammonia poisoning, and tolerating their abusive father. Frances, being the older sibling, always looked out for her younger brother Frank. She strives to protect him against their father, but never seems satisfied with her efforts. When Frances was merely eight years old, she witnesses the first time that her father became violent with her younger brother. Frances recalls the look on her fathers face, Frank Senior, when he first truly questions if his violent actions are acceptable. She knew that he was questioning his own actions when he lowered his head after he struck Frank. Frances sees this minuscule response as a glimmer of recognition of his guilt, and is practically relieved. Yes, her father made an awful decision to let his rage get the best of him at the time, but Frances has some sort of hope that he feels bad enough not to do it again. This is one of the main reasons why she never has the courage to stand up to her father at first, and can’t seem to have any response. Frances questions what might have happened if her mother would just stand up and question her fathers violent actions. She acknowledges that her mother has no strength to stand up to Frank Senior, but she isn’t pleased with her actions. Three years after this incident their mother dies, and reflecting back on this, Frances doesn’t seem to get to emotional over her death. I believe that Frances did love her mother very much, but she did not approve of the example she was setting for her children. In Frances’ mind, she believes that her mother should have stood up to her father, and never let the level of abuse get to the extreme that it did. If her mother stood up for her children and herself, their lives would have been changed forever.

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