Feed on

“The Night in Question” by Tobias Wolff reveals the relationship between a protective older sister, Frances, and her little brother, Frank. Frank and his father, Frank Senior, had a negative father-son relationship because Frank Senior abused Frank starting when he was just a little kid. Frank Senior had decided to teach Frank “the meaning of the word no” which escalated into trying to break his son but “Frank would not break.” (638-639) Frances saw that her father was wrong, but her mother never opposed it. Frances went against the example that was set by her mother and told her brother to “stand up for himself” because she loved him and couldn’t bear to see him continually beat by their father. (638) Once their mother died, Frances begins to defend Frank constantly and even takes some of Frank Senior’s hits herself to save Frank. As the story is told in Frances’ point of view, we are able to see how much she has sacrificed for her brother to keep him safe. As a result of an abusive childhood, Frances grows up protecting Frank from everything; she feels “unaccountable joy” by protecting him because she loves him so much and nothing brings her greater joy than protecting him. (643) Growing up, my older sister was bullied a lot and I saw the repercussions –high insecurity, a lot of tears—which made me begin to defend not only my sister but anyone else who I saw getting bullied. I can relate to the feeling of unaccountable joy that Frances felt, but not as a selfish feeling, more of a my-sister-isn’t-going-to-hate-herself-as-much-if-they-shut-up feeling. Much like Frank’s ungratefulness, my sister never really acknowledged what I did, and we have never had a good sister relationship because she hates me for some reason.

When Frank is reciting the trolley-problem-like dilemma that Mike faces, Frances is taken back by the idea of risking a loved one’s life to save strangers. In Frances opinion, she has already given her life to protect Frank, so no doubt would she save his life instead of the passengers, but Frank feels otherwise. Because of his broken childhood, Frank turns to religion as an escape and when Frances confronts him of what he would do if he were in the same trolley dilemma he couldn’t just say he would save her, he had to think about it and never gave an answer. I imagine Frances feeling betrayal after Frank not being able to simply say he would save her instead of the passengers because “she’d fought neighborhood punks, snotty teachers and unappreciative coaches, loan sharks, landlords, bouncers” and wasn’t afraid to take on “the Father of All.” (642) The trolley-problem-dilemma is created to test our morals; it makes us think beyond our own interests and consider the interests of others, which Frances neglected to do.

To have someone love you enough to choose you over everything must be nice, but probably a little annoying as well. Towards the end of the story, Frank stands up to Frances saying that he “had to change the way [he] thought about things,” meaning he had to start thinking on his own and not be told what to do by Frances all the time. (642) Although Frank was probably a little annoyed at Frances for being overprotective, he still found himself crawling to her when he was distressed. Frances reminds me of a mother figure, which makes sense that she would take that role once her mother passes, in which she becomes overprotective but only for the best interest of her brother.



**Also, I did bring you donuts one class**

Leave a Reply