English Literature - Short Stories Term Paper

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That dynamic was so familiar to the boy that he responded, probably automatically, by adopting the correspondingly appropriate demeanor on his part, as clearly evidenced by the following passage:

The woman was sitting on the day-bed. After a while she said, "I were young once and I wanted things I could not get." There was another long pause. The boy's mouth opened. Then he frowned, but not knowing he frowned. The woman said,

Um-hum! You thought I was going to say but, didn't you? You thought I was going to say, but I didn't snatch people's pocketbooks. Well, I wasn't going to say that." Pause. Silence. "I have done things, too, which I would not tell you, son -- neither tell God, if he didn't already know. So you set down while I fix us something to eat. You might run that comb through your hair so you will look presentable."

The natural ability of the woman - even (presumably, from her autobiographical descriptions), an ordinary woman without advanced education or training in adolescent psychology - to understand the importance of allowing the boy to identify with her experiences is also characteristic of a time period when (virtually all) adults seemed to understand how to reach out to troubled adolescents. The...

...

Mrs.
Jones got up and went behind the screen. The woman did not watch the boy to see if he was going to run now, nor did she watch her purse which she left behind her on the day-bed. But the boy took care to sit on the far side of the room where he thought she could easily see him out of the corner of her eye, if she wanted to. He did not trust the woman not to trust him. And he did not want to be mistrusted now. [emphasis supplied]

Do you need somebody to go to the store," asked the boy, "maybe to get some milk or something?"

The reader is left with very strong doubts that a similar exchange or outcome would ever transpire today. Therefore, aside from mere superficial conversational differences attributable to contemporary values and norms, this attitudinal and linguistic evolution (or devolution, depending on your point-of-view), seems to correspond to other changes in social values that one could argue have been much more detrimental than beneficial to American social culture.

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