Phil Dunphy

"I’m the cool dad, that’s my thang. I’m hip, I surf the web, I text. LOL: laugh out loud, OMG: oh my god, WTF: why the face." - Phil Dunphy

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Chip Off the Old Block?

                Many people think the father-son relationship as simple, or even effortless. Boys seem straightforward enough; they enjoy food, girls, and sports. How hard can it be for a father to raise his son? Tom Franklin addresses this question by depicting the life of a troubled young boy and his relationship with an overly aggressive father in his novel, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter. Franklin’s novel jumps between years from the 1970’s to present day. Taking place in rural Mississippi, the Ott family experienced the horrors of poverty, racism and murder in their southern small town, Chabot. Due to the utilization of pathos and the racist views held by Mr. Ott, I favor the boy’s side in his confliction with his father. Life always came hard to young Larry Ott. With the help of asthma, glasses, an oversize belly and a passion for books, Larry could never find the approval of his father, Carl. After his father dropped him off for school each day, Larry attempted to bond with Carl through pleasant goodbyes, yet his father would give “barely a glance” in return (43). Franklin’s description of Carl and Larry’s relationship strives on his utilization of pathos. By referring to his son as “boy,” his son that not only has physical problems but also social problems, one cannot help but mold the character Larry into the protagonist while creating Carl as the antagonist (83). Franklin develops Larry as an immaculate character, constantly using a tone of innocence and politeness. Through the angelic diction of calling his father names like “Daddy” and “Sir,” Franklin easily establishes Larry into a likable character (83). The novelist continues to destroy Carl’s reputation in the eye’s of the reader by depicting him as a racist. Carl remains at ease when using terms like “nigger” or “colored men” to title certain people in his town (89). Even though Carl lives during the 1970’s, terms like these remain offensive towards decent readers. Although Larry greatly resembles the character Piggy from The Lord of the Flies, Franklin ironically evolves this lonesome figure into a lovable boy through untimely situations and unlucky circumstances. I am interested to see what the author will do with the support he has created towards the character Larry. Will Franklin use this alliance between readers and Larry to put a twist on the novel in pages to come? Will the author ease the tension in the hearts of father’s reading his book by ending this corrupt relationship?

1 comment:

  1. I couldn't agree more with your argument that Franklin portrays Carl as anything but a typical father: malicious, aggressive and offensive. I find myself especially disliking his character when he forces Larry and Silas to fight, ultimately leading to the demise of their friendship. This particular father-son relationship reminded me of the one shared by Don Billingsly and his father in Henry Bissinger's *Friday Night Lights*...extremely troubled. Despite the tragedy of this protagonist's home life, the sympathy that I now have for Larry fostered by Franklin will help me in understanding his future "controversial" actions referred to consistently by the author.