Mercy Among the Children: a Privation of Paternal Protection

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Ristic 1
Mia Ristic
Mr. A. Lee
ENG 4U1
Tuesday November 23, 2010
Mercy Among the Children: A Privation of Paternal Protection
Throughout the book, Mercy Among the Children, the main character, Sydney Henderson is continuously forced to endure the utter embarrassment of being openly mocked, assaulted and publicly victimized. His innocent children watch wide-eyed, secretly wishing for the day when their father will ultimately confront his tormentors and protect their family—not knowing that this day will never come. As the novel progresses, Sydney continues to fail to do so, his cowardice bringing shame and humiliation to his eldest son, Lyle, who strongly believes his father’s passive nature is the cause behind all their misfortunes. While Lyle grows older and becomes aware of the uniqueness of this enduring demeanor which his father possesses, his irritation and hostility towards Sydney strengthens as he begins to become more and more repulsed by his father’s lack of response, promising himself that he will never mirror the image his father portrays. In avoidance of this, Lyle rebels, becoming the polar opposite of Sydney by any means necessary—cursing authorities, starting fights, and even committing robbery. As Lyle matures and leaves behind his rebellious youth years, he slowly begins to understand the deeper reasons behind his father’s refusal to retaliate. Yet, due to his inability to forgive himself and overlook the terrible crimes he has committed, Lyle holds on to his hatred and refuses to forgive his father, forever bitter—causing a once seemingly perfect relationship to deteriorate.

Sydney Henderson’s cowardice is first shown when a few drunken men harass his wife, Elly, shouting sexual insults after her—despite the presence of Lyle and his younger sister, Autumn. Failing to defend her honour—as any brave man should—Sydney refrains from reacting, allowing these men to publicly humiliate him and his family. The relationship between...
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