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To honour. To mock. To fear. To hate. To be fascinated. To laugh out loud.

This story starts out differently then most other short stories I’ve read. It starts with the above quote, which is very unusual. This story is told in first-person. As the reader, you are showed the thoughts of the unnamed male narrator. The quote above reflects the narrator’s life. This story shows that the narrator is going though a mid-life crisis.

“The Night in Question” by Tobias Wolff is a third-person narrative about the death of Benny Bolling, the son of Janice and Mike Bolling, who died after being crushed by machinery while at work with his father. He deliberately disobeyed his father and went to the mechanical room that is deep below the surface of the bridge. He was so far down in the mechanical room that he could not hear what was above him on top of the bridge. A train was heading towards the bridge, and if his father did not lower the bridge for the train,all the passengers would surely die. The child leaves his father in a desperate situation in which he has to decide whether to save his son or to save the people on the train. Should he save his son, who is his own flesh and blood, but is only one life compared to the many of lives on the train? On the other hand, he can save the train full of people who as we see in the following quote are perceived to be not worthy of saving based on society’s views on how people should act: “There is the false witness.There is the bribe-taker.There is a woman who abandons her husband and children for her own pleasure” (Wolff,641). Mike Bolling is approached with this decision without this knowledge and based on his own view of life and faith. So he decides to save the lives of many over the lives of one, pulling down the bridge and killing his son in the process.


What I fear, I avoid. What I fear, I pretend does not exist. What I fear is quietly killing me. Would there were a festival for my fears, a ritual burning of what is coward in me, what is lost in me. Let the light in before it is too late. (633)

In Jeanette Winterson’s “The Green Man” a man who is also a father and husband struggles with his feeling of emasculation and sexual desire. As he, his wife, and his daughter are at the fair, the wild commotion that occurs represents the father’s own internal struggle. He battles with his own air of masculinity, and feels as though he is somehow losing his sense of “manliness.” “On Friday Daddy cuts the lawn. On Saturday Daddy waters it. On Sunday Daddy barbecue’s on the lawn. On Monday Daddy leaves it and looks with half-regret on his close-cropped green-eyed doll. His manhood is buried there and next week he’ll spike it.” (628)

It seems as though the father may be going through a mid-life crisis or at a point in his life where he is re-evaluating the path he has chosen in life. He and his wife no longer have a romantic connection, so when he sees the gypsies at the fair, it peeks his sexual interest. He feels both ashamed and excited at the though of other women.

To [honor]. To mock. To fear. To hate. To laugh out loud. To be fascinated. (631)

The narrator wants to honor his marriage and be a faithful husband, but he cannot stop thinking about sexual encounters with other women. He feels as though everyone is mocking him and laughing at him because of his assumed incapability of being masculine. “They were laughing at me, all of them, as I scrambled off the grass and blundered away.” (631) He is also fascinated by other women and is obsessed about the maintenance of his lawn, another act to recapture his masculinity.

The narrator realizes that his daughter, at thirteen, is becoming aware of sex, and wants to protect her innocence for as long as he can.  The narrator feels as though he is running out of time, not only for himself, but also and time for his daughter to remain innocent in the ways of the world.


“The Night in Question” by Tobias Wolff at its core represents the difficulty of making choices. Whether they be simple decisions or complex ones that require a great deal of thought, some things are not easily decided. As a person who is painfully indecisive and emotionally charged all of the time, I can understand the difficulty.  The choices that we make in life more often than not end up defining who we are as individuals. We always want to be sure of the choices we make to ensure that we are limiting the amount of regrets we have at the end of our life. Clearly, that is impossible, and as humans we second-guess and over analyze a lot of things, especially when life comes to a crossroads. Usually, when I am asked a difficult question, a gut feeling tells me the answer, but more often than not I ignore that and bounce back and forth between the options even if I know the answer should be clear. I am an emotionally impulsive person, and it tends to bite me on the butt; my emotions drive my choices ninety-nine percent of the time, the tiny one percent legitimate rationale that in all honesty plays a small role. Is it good or bad that I and other people are driven by emotion to make choices? Sometimes I wonder how different my life would be if I allowed that tiny one percent to rule my life instead of my emotions. Would I be more intelligent, more successful, happier, or have a greater satisfaction with my life?

“The Night in Question” is filled with choices and result of the choices made. Throughout the story, there are many times when the characters hesitate to do or say something and wonder what would have happened if they had. “But she didn’t stop him.” (pg. 638) “Frances followed her mother’s example and said nothing.” (pg.638) We often regret the things we don’t do than the things that we actually do. At least we know what happens when we act, it can be torture to be constantly wondering. “What might have happened if her mother had come flying out of her chair and told him to stop, now and forever? Or if she had only looked at him, confirming his shame? But her eyes stayed closed.” (pg. 638) This quote in particular made me reflect on all the times I allowed the boys and the men in my life to have the upper hand and all the times I allowed that upper hand to backhand not only myself but other women. Why in the moment is it so difficult to speak up? “Her mother could not allow herself to see what she had no strength to oppose. Her heart was bad. Three years later she reached for a bottle of ammonia, said “Oh,” sat down on the floor and died.” (pg.638) Suicide is another choice that many people unfortunately choose to make. If any situation could lack every and no emotion it would be the choice to take ones life. As I previously stated, I am an emotionally impulsive person and there was a point in my life three years ago when I did contemplate suicide. At the time the choice seemed so easy due to my lack of emotions, but even without my lack of emotions there was a lack of rationale. It created a dark void in which I got very very lost. So maybe having emotions isn’t always the worst thing; emotions might not always be rational, but they can point you in the right direction.

Another big part of life is how life is constantly changing. Those changes are often a result of the choices made by ourselves and those around us. One of the things I have struggled most with in the past few months is changing myself for the better. ” I had to change. I had to change the way I thought about things. Maybe I sound a little different too.” (pg. 642) Changing myself and how I view things in life has been one of the most dificult things I have ever done. Having close friends and family telling me they do not like the change, even if it is for the better, has been hard. But I am making the choice to keep moving forward with this process, and it is the first balanced decison I have made in my life that I can remember.

For her brother she’d fought neighborhood punks, snotty teachers, and unappreciative coaches, loan sharks, landlords, bouncers. From the time she was a scabby-kneed girl she’d taken on her own father, and if push came to shove she’d take on the Father of All, that incomprehensible bully. She was ready. (642)

The truth of the matter is, is that we cannot predict what we would do in stressful situations such as the train incident. All she proves is how much she loves her brother and that she hopes that her love would prove powerful enough to prevent him from dying in a situation similar to the theoretical train. We all, at one point or another, ignorantly predict the choices we would make in impossible situations. This is only ignorant because it is undermining the choices that real people had to actually make. We could not even begin to imagine what they were thinking, feeling, or deciding in these moments of pure chaos. They did the best they could, given the situation they were in. Frances clearly loves her brother and has gone through hell and back in order to protect him. Those were the choices she made, and other people in similar situations may not have put their lives on the line in order to protect a sibling. I am “ride-or-die” when it comes to my brother, and I would do anything for him but I have never needed to protect him from an abusive parent so it would be difficult for me to say that I would. I hope I would, and I hope I would be strong enough to stand up for him but that is all I can do, is hope.

“I’m down in the mill, Frank. I’m stuck in the gears and here comes the train with Mother Teresa and five hundred sinners on board, whoo whoo, whoo whoo. Who, Frank, who? who’s it going to be?” 

This story makes it very clear that Frank has two main receivers of love in his life: his love for his sister and his love for religion. In this story, we see how both of them play two different but equally important roles in his life. He attends church regularly and repeats the sermons he finds particularly exciting, and he has a clearly strong and almost dependent relationship with his sister and how much she used to and does take care of him in life. When posed with the question above, Frank has to pause and take everything into consideration. Yes it is his sister, but she is just one person compared to five hundred and one, despite the fact that most of them are made out to be bad people.

Just like in the story he was telling to Frances, we never find out his answer. We’re never told whether or not Mike chose Benny or if Frank chose Frances. We can probably give a guess about either outcome, but we are never told for sure one way or another.

He did not understand what it was to be helpless and alone. No one should be alone in this world. Everyone should have someone who kept faith, no matter what, all the way. (639)

This passage shows the relationship between Frances and her brother, Frank, in Tobias Wolff’s “The Night in Question.” Frank was abused as a child by their father, and Frances would be there for Frank when it seemed that no one else was.

I feel like this quotation contradicts the story that Frank tells within the one that Wolff is telling. In Frank’s story, he says, “He will not leave us alone. He is with all of you, as he is with me.” (641) Frank is saying that no one is ever alone, but in the passage above, it says that, “No one should be alone in this world.” (639) This quote infers that people are alone and that they shouldn’t be alone, but in Frank’s mind, no one is alone, ever.

Throughout the story, the reader can tell that Frances is not as connected with religion as Frank. She seems to think more about the emotional side rather than the religious/reasoning side that Frank does. At the end of the story, Frances asks if Frank would save her if she was in a similar situation. While Frank does not give an answer to Frances, she knows who is answer is going to be, or she hopes she knows. She can see him trying to come up with a reasoning answer as to why he would choose who he did, the answer would have to reflect what he believes. But yet, we do not ever know what his answer would be, we can only hope that he will choose the right one, which ever one that may be.

They were hoping for a whole houseful of kids, but the Lord decided to give them one instead, a very special one… Benny came out in high gear and never shifted down.

This quote from Tobias Wolfe’s “The Night In Question” stands out to me the most because, despite the fact Frank didn’t sound similar to Benny, many children with special needs experience abuse similar to what Frank experienced with his father, Frank senior. While Frank may not have directly been a child with born special needs, the inability for one person to understand another draws tension between the parties, and the abuse he suffered from his father could have created some social disadvantages. Frank senior may have gotten along better with Frank if he was more like Benny, instead of being described as “plain in speech, neither formal nor folksy, so spare and somethings harsh that his jokes sounded like challenges or insults.” (2) However, Frank Jr. can’t act the same as Benny, because of the abuse from his father, how he acts socially is greatly impacted by the abuse from his father.

Another reason could be the fact Frances, Frank’s sister, was able to understand Frank’s difference in personality, which Frank senior could not. Frances’ ability to understand Frank, however, could stem from her desire to have her father’s attention, which was spent mostly on grooming Frank into his ideal son, and the feeling of taking over her late mother’s responsibility. Frances’ father sabotages her marriage, invades her home, and causes trouble at her work (3). Her ability to understand her sibling creates tension in her life with her father, but also breaks his attention from Frank’s inability to change, to focus on Frances’ direct disobedience in caring for Frank.

This story expresses a question often presented to people of Christian faith: Would you risk your loved one for complete strangers? Pastors often preach that one should love others as their God did; allowing his own son to be killed so that others could be saved from sin.

The main characters of this passage show how one might question this rhetoric and how one might accept it wholeheartedly. Frances, the sister of the main character, questions it by saying,

I don’t care if the Almighty poked a gun in my ear, I would never do that. Not in a million years. Neither would you. Honest, now, little brother, would you grind me up if I was the one down in the mill, would you push the Francesburger button?” (Wolff 642)

Due to being abused by their father, Frances feels as though Frank telling her a sermon about risking your own family for others is a slap to the face. She protected him from their father’s violent outbursts and would do anything for him. She would even risk her mariage. The fact that Frank believes what she did is selfish grates on her nerves and makes her feel as though he isn’t even remotely appreciative of the shelter she provided from being abused. In response to her anger, Frank says:

Don’t put me to the test, Frances. It’s not your place.” (Wolff 642)

After the type of life Frank had, he is most likely trying to make sense of it by finding comfort in religion. He wants to believe God has a reason for everything that happens and that there’s a plan. Like all people who have lived through painful lives filled with regret, Frank wants an answer.



And at this moment, when Mike has nowhere to hide and nothing left to tell himself, then he can hear, and he knows that he is not alone, and he knows what it is that he must do. It has been done before, even by Him who speaks, the Father of All, who gave His own son, His beloved, that others might be saved.”

Wolff’s “The Night in Question” demonstrates how there is a fine line between an act that is just and an act that is good. Is it just that Mike, the father in Frank’s story, sacrifices his son in order to save people on a train may not be worthy of saving? Is it just that Ben, Mike’s son, who is innocent in this world, has to die in order to save the lives of so many corrupt people? Is Mike’s decision good in either case?  Justice is “owed” to a particular person(s) when an idea or an object that is rightfully theirs (such as Mike’s promise to give the public a safe public transportation system) is taken from them. As a worker on the drawbridge station, Mike “owes” safety to the passengers on the train because it is their right to feel safe on public transportation. Does Mike “owe” safety to his son? Although this question may seem obvious–of course Mike owes Ben his safety, he is his father– it becomes a little more complex when one thinks about how morality, often referred to as “goodness,” does not normally permit someone to act unjust even for the sake of the greater good. While the story that Frank, the narrator’s brother, tells about Mike and Ben is meant to serve a higher purpose in explaining the Lord’s incomprehensible love for man-kind, I find it interesting to think of it in a more worldly context as well.

Frances didn’t mind a fight, and she especially didn’t mind fighting for her brother.

The end of Wolff’s “The Night in Question” shows how Frances, the narrator, has an incomprehensible love for her brother, much like the incomprehensible love God shows man-kind when he sacrifices his only son for the salvation of all men. Throughout Frances’ life, she has sacrificed her own happiness while protecting Frank from “neighborhood punks, snotty teachers and unappreciative coaches, loan sharks, landlords, bouncers.” (642) Frances has always protected Frank in hostile situations, especially when she is protecting Frank from “the Father of All, the incomprehensible bully.” (642) It seems as though Frank has based the story of Mike and Ben not only off of the scarification of God’s one and only son, Jesus Christ, but also off of Frank’s own life with his sister, Frances. Frances has sacrificed her own happiness in life to protect her brother. When Frances poses the question, “I’m stuck in the gears and here comes the train with Mother Teresa and five hundred sinners on board, whoo whoo, whoo whoo. Who, Frank, who? Who’s it going to be?” (642) she ultimately already knows the answer that Frank will give her. She knows that he will choose her over the train full of people because Frank loves her, and what greater joy is there than protecting and saving someone one loves?  Frances cannot grasp the idea of killing a loved one in order to save a mass of people because she has spent her entire life protecting her one and only brother.

It’s okay, Franky. I’m here.

The last two sentences of the story remind me of the psalm 118:6 in the Bible, “The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”  In a way, Frank interprets the same concept of the psalm with his own words, “He will not leave us alone. He is with all of you, as he is with me” which also relates to how Frances has never left Frank alone or indefensible. The “mere mortals” in psalm 118:6 are like the people who have treated Frank unjustly in his own life. The people on the train in Frank’s story are like the sinners of the world referenced in the bible, who are in need of salvation to have everlasting life. What can mere mortals do to Frank when he has the undying love and protection of his sister?

I’m not religious in the least, but my mom was raised strictly Baptist and ended up leaving the church completely in her twenties. My mom and I have had many conversations about God and religion; how some people utilize religion to find purpose and stability in their lives, a moral code, or to better serve a personal agenda. I remember talking to her a few years ago about “The Sacrifice of Isaac”- my mom hates this story, and Frances reminded me very much of her reaction and feelings. Like Francis, my mom didn’t care if there was more to the story, it didn’t matter that Abraham didn’t sacrifice his son. What mattered to her was the idea of a God who would demand that of a parent.

Wolff’s “The Night in Question” is certainly not about religion, but it does utilize it to portray how a sister reacts to the loss of dependency she and her brother shared. Throughout the story, Frances hints at how wild and destructive her brother used to be, however this is a sharp contrast to the well put-together man Frances is visiting. She’s clearly put off by the change in her little brother, noting how he speaks differently, dresses differently, and presents himself as a stronger man than he may actually be.

“I had to change. Change the way I thought about things. Maybe I sound a little different too.” (Wolff, 642)

Frances and Frank have a past of abuse, one where Frances fought tooth and nail to protect her little brother from an angry father. In this instance, it created a very close relationship bordering dependency on each other: Frank more manipulative of this relationship, whereas Frances uses it to feel needed, perhaps even greater than herself. The change in Frank signals a change in their relationship, and his belief in God is a threat to the power and capability she believed she had. In the passage above, I believe this most clearly displays Frank’s acknowledgment of the abuse he faced and how he’s trying to handle himself without his sister’s influence. Frances, however, clings to anger, relishes in the fight, and her brother no longer needing her is crushing. So she challenges his faith, almost as if she is trying to remove the force in his life she perceives as a threat to her place in it.

She could still taste that smoke and hear her father’s steps on the stairs, Frank panting beside her, moving closer, his voice whispering her name and her own voice answering as fear gave way to ferocity and unaccountable joy, It’s okay, Franky. I’m here. (Wolff, 643)

In a way, I think Frances perceives the presence of God in Frank’s life as the bullying, abusive, figure of their father and yet another reason for her to protect and fight for him.

I myself have been in the shoes of Frank and I have experienced people like Frances, who are ready to fight till the end. It is in those moments that every single word that comes out of your mouth matters the most. Though what I feel Tobias Wolff has captured the best in  his short story “The Night in Question” is the moment true faith is challenged. I’ve seen it many times: the anger antagonizing words, the threatening look of challenge that makes you want to rush your answer, by giving a simple book straight reply. It makes your heart pound and your muscles tense as you know this is the make or break point of the conversation. It matches perfectly with the climax of this story on pages 641-643.

However, what makes this story so true to life, is the fact that Tobias Wolff wrote the story with the understanding that the one who’s faith is being challenged is Frances, not Frank. You can tell this is the case as Frances jumps to defended herself and her past actions with words such as:

“Not in a million years. Neither would you. Honest, now, little brother, would you grind me up if I was the one down in the mill, would you push the Francesburger button?”(642)

An action that you find even little children do when they try to shift the blame onto someone else or when middle-schoolers’ try to assert that there in the right. Frances’ over eagerness to prove herself right along with her internal reflection of her past actions, show that it is her faith being shaken.

But her husband had never been thrown across a room, or kicked, or slammed headfirst into a door. No one had ever spoken to him as her father had spoken to Frank. He did not understand what it was to be helpless and alone. No one should be alone in this world. Everyone should have someone who kept faith, no matter what, all the way.

Tobias Wolff’s “The Night in Question” is about the relationship between the narrator, Frances, and her brother, Frank. They are closer than most siblings because their father was a violent man. Their father abused Frank and Frances stood up for her little brother. She hopes if he had to make similar choice, he would choose her like she did for him.

In the short stories by Belle Boggs, they are all set in a rural setting. Even though two of the stories, “Deer Season” and “Election Day,” do not explicitly say where they are set (county or state), the reader can picture the ruralness of the story. But in her stories “Good News for a Hard Time” and “Homecoming,” they are bothering set in King William County, Virginia. King William County is a small county along the Mattaponi River, which is named after the Native American tribe, the Mattaponi. King William County is the county that Belle Boggs grew up in, and it is a place she seems to use for settings in her short stories a lot.

“Skinny, who was not skinny at all…” (Good News for a Hard Time, 14) (Homecoming, 3)

This passage came form both “Homecoming” and “Good News for a Hard Time.” I found it interesting how Belle Boggs wrote “Homecoming” and “Good News for a Hard Time” as stories that ran parallel and at the same time as each other with a moment of intersection when Skinny is introduced. To me, the parallelism in these two stories created for more interesting reads. While in “Homecoming” we know nothing of Bruce, as he is only in the story for a sentence or two, we read about his life in “Good News for a Hard Time.” The same goes for Skinny in “Good News for a Hard Time.” Readers do not get to know much about Skinny in the story while he is one of the main characters in “Homecoming” and influencers in Marcus’ life.

Rather than talking about one of Belle Boggs’ short stories I would like to address how she connected “Good News for a Hard Time” and “Homecoming” so that they both have the same setting, the rural county of King William, Virginia. This county just so happens to be the county that Belle Boggs grew up in, and it would not be surprising if parts of her short stories were inspired by events she personally witnessed. However, I find it appropriate that both stories share a common setting and a personal connect to the author. As it makes Belle Boggs story telling more complete, allowing the two short stories to truly become just one story with multiply perspectives, similar to the style that Belle Boggs choose to write “Deer Season” in.

Below are the beginning paragraphs from an essay by the author Aminatta Forna in the magazine World Literature Today. You can read the complete essay here.

Human beings tell stories. This is a fact. Every society, however differently organized and structured, whether founded on the values of matriarchy or patriarchy, whether agricultural, sea-going, peaceful, or warmongering, tells stories. We know this because anthropologists tell us so. Anthropologists, historians (what are historians but storytellers themselves?), and archaeologists, who have traced the origin of stories as far back as human life. The first written story to have been found is the Epic of Gilgamesh, produced sometime between 2150 and 1400 bc in cuneiform on fragments of tablets and unearthed in the sands of what is now Syria.

aminatta-forna-by-jonathan-ringFrom epic legends like Gilgamesh to anecdotes, we tell each other stories every day: “Guess what happened?” Typically my seven-year-old son’s first words when he dashes through the door at the day’s end. A woman is late for lunch with a friend, she sits down, she says: “Just listen to the day I’ve had . . .” A man at a bar leans across to another man: “So I was driving down the freeway . . .” And so it goes. Storytelling is a symbiotic process, an exchange between teller and listener, between writer and reader. It is the way my son shares the highs and lows of his day, the way the woman who is late encourages her friend’s sympathy rather than irritation, how the man at the bar extends the hand of friendship.

It is easy to revere stories for all that they do. Today I know how it might have felt like to live under apartheid from Can Themba, how daily life unfolds during the civil war in Lebanon from Rabih Alameddine, sense the fear and courage of the enslaved from Colson Whitehead. Through books I can travel across distance, space, and time. I can imagine what it is like to be a man, or an elderly person, or recapture the experience of youth. It helps me understand the worlds of other people. Indeed, the link between reading fiction and empathy has been well established, most recently by researchers at the New School who have found evidence that literary fiction improves a reader’s capacity to understand what others are thinking and feeling. More than that, reading literary fiction—and interestingly the same doesn’t go for nonfiction or genre fiction such as romances or thrillers— actually changes people’s behavior.

Literary fiction focuses on the psychology of characters and their relationships. The characters in literary fiction are as real as a writer can make them, as full of the conflicts and flaws as any one of us. Literary fiction seeks to ask questions rather than provide answers. The outcome may not be predictable. The New School research shows that literary fiction prompts the reader to imagine the characters’ introspective dialogues. This psychological awareness carries over into the real world, which is full of complicated individuals whose inner lives are usually difficult to fathom. Reading frees the reader from the constraints of the self, from our own prejudices and assumptions. Reading makes you a more highly functioning person. In other words—reading makes you a better person.


“You’ve left me in a real place.”

Out of the three stories by Belle Bogg’s I found “Election Day” the most interesting story. I found it interesting not so much because of the plot, but because of how it was written. The immense amount of description in the story creates a very vivid picture. When I read I love details, I would much rather be fully immersed in the stories setting. The level of description used is especially crucial to “Election Day” because of the point of view from which it is being told. The story comes from the view of an eighty-four year old woman named Cutie. Whenever older characters are in stories they tend to use a great amount of detail. I believe this is to highlight the appreciation for life that older people have (or at least some). Perhaps appreciation for life is not the best wording for it but more that older people hold greater value on memories. A lot can happen over the span of eight-four years, there is a lot to remember. One memory in particular that is brought up more than once is Cutie’s love of the feeling of stepping on frosted grass.  It is something so small and insignificant, but it clearly is very important to her.  Most people have memories or odd things such as this from their childhood that contain a certain feeling of nostalgia. To me the theme of this story is about nostalgia for the past. While Cutie does seem

If this story were told using only one perspective, it would lose a lot of the emotion the author wrote in it. Using more than one perspective means we can see multiple views on the same event. We see how each of these characters goes about the day affected by the first day of hunting season and the thoughts that go through each of their heads as the day goes on. The principal and his not so secret desire to be out there, the secretary drowning in absentee paperwork, Jenny actually glad to be away from her boyfriend, Jason who doesn’t like the season in general, and Ms. Hayes who’s glad to have an easier day to let the children draw while she recovers from a hangover. If it were just limited to one of these people by a first person viewpoint or a limited third person perspective, we would lose a vast majority of the emotions felt in the story. Of course the author could have simply had one of the characters guess at everyone else’s feelings, but that wouldn’t be as interesting to read.

A parent’s absence in a child’s life can have a negative impact on the child’s ability to be a parent in their adult life. In the short story “Good News for a Hard Time” by Belle Boggs, the struggles of a woman without a mother are addressed by how she feels about her pregnancy. Ronnie, the descendant of a Native American woman and a white man, lives on an army base with her husband, Jeremy, who has recently lost part of his right arm in a blast. When she goes back to the Mattaponi Indian Reservation where she grew up, she is instantly reminded of the hurt she felt and still feels from her mother not being in her life. Throughout this story, she constantly questions what type of mother she will be and if she will abandon her child as her mother had.

Two months pregnant and still reeling from the news of her husband’s arm, Ronnie spends her time with her father, Bruce, and reflects on her life without her mother. According to the story, Ronnie seems to be a person who suppresses her feelings a lot. This happens very often to children who have had a parent leave them; whether voluntarily or by death. She wants to be strong and not admit that she wants her mother’s approval and love; especially with the baby on the way. This is shown in the interaction between Bruce and Ronnie on page 4:

‘How do you feel about it?’ Bruce asked as he set down the bowls, not looking at her. ‘You happy?’

Ronnie shrugged, embarrassed. ‘I suppose.'”

Seeing how her father treats her mother’s absence as inevitable, Ronnie does not want him seeing how confused and lost she is. She wants to be seen as strong and competent even in the midst of all the uncertainties in her life. There are two main options for personality that I have seen and gone through myself as a child that has been abandoned by a parent. There is the person who wants to be seen as completely independent so it seems as though they never needed the parent all along and there is the person who begs for attention and love from everyone they meet because that they did not got it from the parent. Ronnie is a lot like me in the aspect that she is the first type of person. Without my father in my life, I shoulder as much responsibility as I can for myself and I rarely ask for help. Often times, I feel as though this is a defense mechanism because a person left by a parent feels as though they were too much of a burden for the parent so they do not want others to feel the annoyed and leave. So, they internalize their sadness and even their joy because any type of emotion feels like placing a weight on the remaining parent. I also understand Ronnie’s reluctance to celebrate the pregnancy with her father because she feels as though she has failed in his eyes. She has grown to be like her parents and it unsettles her.

…what she really wanted to hear was this:

Jesus, Ron, I really let you down (8).”

As a child becomes an adult, the things that happened in their childhood often catch up with them. Ronnie’s insecurities about her mother have caught up with her as she realizes she is going to be a mother soon. Psychologically, she internalizes her mother leaving as a foreshadowing of her future. But she also has hope that Jeremy will be a good father and, maybe, she will develop confidence in herself that she has the ability to be a good mother.


The title of this story implies a certain amount of hope that is sharply contrasted by the narrator’s sense of dread towards her current pregnancy. When she says, “Part of her wished she could just stay pregnant,” (7) she does not mean it as a sweet sentiment but rather the hope that she will never give birth to the child she is carrying around inside of her. The pregnancy has made her reevaluate her life choices, and she has discovered that she has never taken any risks other than art school. She is repeating her mother’s life, a life full of regret and stupid decisions. The narrator is struggling between doing what is expected of her and pursuing what she wants to do.

Anyway, Mrs. Hayes probably thinks Jason wishes he were out hunting, ha, what a joke. Jason’s dad offered to take him…but then he never called back when he said he would. He was probably waiting for Jason to call him back, and Jason was busy…Jason doesn’t think he could shoot something as helpless as a deer anyway.”

This story switches from each characters’ point of view which places a very interesting twist on it. The hunting season effects each individual person differently and causes them to feel their own hang ups about the impromptu holiday. It seems like a ritual for the young men and completely bypasses any young women who might be interested in the sport. Jason, as a male who prefers sketching over killing animals, seems to find the day barbaric and something he would rather leave to men like his father. He brings up the helplessness of the deer  which can mirror the helplessness he feels when dealing with Jenny and her boyfriend’s crew. Due to his social awkwardness and complete lack of interest in something “Jenny’s boyfriend and the rest of the rednecks” (Boggs 4) would like, he stays indoors with the girls and listens to the gun shots sounding in the distance.

As a person who grew up in rural Pennsylvania, the importance of showing male dominance in the form of hunting is something very familiar to me. Not only is it a ritual, it is a subject often discussed  in class once the boys return. How much game was shot is boasted amongst the male youth and often leads to heated debates on hunting techniques and shooting accuracy. As a person who was more interested in affairs on a more intellectual level, I identify with Jason in not really caring about the hunting day. It was often not even on my radar; just a peaceful day that I was free from testosterone dominating the classroom.


Belle Boggs’ “Good News for a Hard Time” explores the ways in which the loss of a parent can impact a child, while also touching on differences in social classes and the additional struggle this can cause. Ronnie is understandably resentful of her mother’s leaving and her father’s simple acceptance of this, but shows a clear inability to accept love from others as a result. In addition, a poor upbringing has made her constantly dissatisfied with what she has, fueling her desire to run away in search of better.

Despite resenting her mother for running away, Ronnie displays the same exact tendencies she perceived in her mother. Her mother, presumably, left for a greater, richer, life, something Ronnie yearns for but decides she doesn’t have. At every opportunity she denies herself happiness and is quick to dismiss any thoughts of attempting to create a meaningful and intimate situation the would make her vulnerable. “She imagined bringing Jeremy home from the hospital, holding his good hand… and telling him about their child in a shy, proud, way… No, she thought, that was stupid.” (Boggs, 9)

Ronnie keeps people at arm’s length, refusing to accept their love, and constantly thinks about running away to something greater. If only she’d gotten that degree, if only Jeremy had died… All of this a result of the loss of a vital figure in her life.

I believe Ronnie is an excellent example of how distorted one’s view of the world can be when one loses a parent. It can damage the ability to maintain relationships and trust in others, especially those that should be cherished the most.

Belle Boggs’ “Deer Season” is written in the third person and consists of characters that fit into common stereotypes. Among the stereotypes explored in this story are the gender roles different characters assume.  Gender roles are seen in this story when most of the male students don’t attend school so that they can go hunting, while the girls are expected to attend class. Showing that males are considered more violent and dominant, while women, as we see in the following quote, are more relaxed and sensitive: “But today is an easy day-with no fighting to worry about, of general air of femaleness takes over the building. A softness and gentleness.”( 3.Boggs). Based on what we can tell, the characters in this story seem to accept this way of life except for the secretary who we see in the following quote only dislikes this event because of all the work she must do.  “But it is a harder day than most for the secretary, who must bubble and bubble all the absences on the Scantron forms-so many absences!” (1.Boggs).

On the first day of dear season the high school is deserted of all the boys. This is expected by the teachers, who will chat with the girls and show movies all day… (3)

The irony of Belle Boggs’ “The Deer” being the focus on the story on the girls in the school, and the few left out boys, instead of the boys hunting for the season. Traditionally, education  had been more catered to the males students, such as female dress codes being aimed to not “distract” the boys. However, the education of the girls is disrupted by the boys being gone for deer season, this causes their education to be taken less seriously: the teachers showing movies instead of lessons, teachers, like the art teacher Mrs. Hayes, showing up to work hungover and unprepared, and it is referred to as an easy day in the eyes of the faculty. The principal, in lacking of other activities to do, suggestively describes the girls’ attire and exposed flesh, while he could be redirecting teachers into teaching lessons.

Males in the school, such as Jason, were seen by the teachers and wanting to be out hunting, instead of being in school, which pushed the typical male stereotype of an outdoorsy guy. Jason calls the other boys who are hunting rednecks (4), the same boys who “give him shit about his clothes, his hair, the music he listens to.” showing that females weren’t the only ones who had education disrupted by the other male students.

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