Mary Gaitskill's Tiny Smiling Daddy

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The most difficult time in a child's relationship with his/her parents is mainly during its teenage years. These are times of rebellion, disagreement, strong emotion, psychological changes and sexual experimentation just to name a few. In Mary Gaitskill's short story "Tiny, Smiling Daddy", the main theme "of how people seek intimacy but don't know how to achieve it" (Gaitskill, 289) is conveyed by the author through the characters, symbolism and setting and imagery.

Firstly, the two main characters in this story, Kitty and Stew, are crucial elements of the story to present its theme. When Kitty was a child, her and Stew were intimate. She would laugh at her father's jokes about playing with the hairs of his nose. (Gaitskill, 290) This intimacy did not last as Kitty hit her teenage years which are known to result in big personal changes. She now despised her father's jokes. This period of her life is when the intimacy with Stew is lost. Later, she "turned into a glum, weird teenager that other kids picked on. She got skinny and ugly."(Gaitskill, 290) The situation gets more complicated when Kitty tells her parents that she is a lesbian. Stew is so ashamed of her that he no longer knows how to be close with his daughter. When she is twenty-two, she visits her parents for Christmas and she is beautiful again: "It was a beauty that both offended and titillated his senses."(Gaitskill, 293) Stew wants to be intimate with Kitty but the fact that she is so different holds him back. By writing the article in the magazine Self, Kitty explains how she would like to be close with her father again but it is hard for her to speak her thoughts: ‘The article went on to describe how Kitty hung up the phone feeling frustrated and then listed all the things that she could've said to him to let him know how hurt she was, paving the way for "real communication."'(Gaitskill, 295) By putting emphasis on the relationship of Kitty and Stew, Gaitskill manages to convey the theme...
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