Jack Arnold Paper

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Tyra Swanson
Mr. Johnston
Communications 9 Honors
17 April 2013
“The Times are a Changin”
“King for a day.” That’s how Jack Arnold hopes his children see him on his birthday. However, as his children age and his family changes, Jack realizes that maybe he isn’t “king for a day” in the minds of his children, and maybe he isn’t king at all. In the television series “The Wonder Years,” Jack’s morals and traditional self are put to the test when he realizes his kids aren’t little anymore. Jack’s stubborn attitude, traditional values, and defiance toward change resist the upcoming generation’s social and family values. Jack is the father of three teenagers, and he, along with his stay-at-home-wife Norma, struggle keeping them in line because of the changing era. His kids are growing up in the late 1960s and early 1970s in southern California, making it hard for him to maintain his old-school morals. Not only does Jack have stubborn teens, he must keep up with his middle management job that does not pay well. But through these struggles he is still genuinely committed to his family and loves them deeply.

His commitment is evident when he encounters many interactions with his three teenaged kids, including Karen, his college-aged and unruly daughter; Wayne, the middle, frolicsome son; and finally Kevin; the youngest son, who also narrates the television show as an adult with voiceovers. The relationships between Jack and his kids are influenced by his early life and the way he grew up. Jack grew up in the Depression-era, later becoming a soldier for the U.S.

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Marines and serving time overseas in Korea. His nonsensical and stubborn ways towards his children are truly shaken up with social revolution in the 1960s.
This is revealed in the episode “Road Trip,” when Jack and Kevin drive to go get a new suit for Kevin, on Norma’s demand, at a huge retail store. Unfortunately, it is two hours away. Norma provides them with directions, but due to Jack’s stubborn nature he refuses to listen to anyone and takes his own way. Upon getting lost Kevin asks Jack if they should stop to ask for directions. This infuriates Jack, and he replies with a stern “no.” Jack wants things done his way and will put up a fight to stand for what he wants or believes in.

The episode “Daddy’s Little Girl” brings this to light, during an exchange between Jack and Karen on her eighteenth birthday. Karen is growing up, but Jack does not want to acknowledge this fact. He continually argues with Karen about having a birthday cake and presents. Struggling to hold on to tradition Jack stubbornly argues with Karen about having a birthday cake:

KAREN. I don’t want a cake.
JACK. Sure you do.
KAREN. I really, I don’t. I-I don’t want a party either.
JACK. What are you talkin’ about? Sure you do – you like parties.
KAREN. No really Dad, I don’t.
JACK. Fine.
In this argument between Karen and Jack both clearly state what they want, and when neither backs down Jack goes into a more permissive state and walks away from the situation deciding

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he doesn’t want to argue anymore. It is clear that in this scene he realizes that he is emotionally wounded by his daughter’s refusal to stick to tradition.
Traditional values are what Jack holds very near and dear to his heart, but when these traditions are put to the test he fears that he will lose them all together. In the episode, “The Fishing Trip,” Jack wants the tri-annual fishing trip with Wayne and Keven to be exactly how it used to be. Unfortunately the trip is far from what it used to be. For example the three men do not fit in the tent anymore like they use to. The path towards their prime fishing spot has been shut down and covered with a bunch of weeds. And for the first time in their tri-annual camping trip history, Wayne wins the card game around the fire. All these events make Jack realize that this tradition has...
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