Short Story and Grace Paley

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“Who’s to blame, the man or the Train?”
The brakes screech to a halt, the passengers topple over, and the child falls into a tragic death. In the short story, “Samuel,” by Grace Paley, a young boy loses his life while engaging in a risky type of playtime with his pals. Although it is a terrible happening, it makes you first ask, “Who is to blame?” After reading the story thoroughly, it becomes very evident that the boys were taking a risk, ignoring authority, and acting foolish. These boys couldn’t have known what was going to happen, but they also did nothing to prevent this tragedy.

The four little boys in the story of “Samuel” are taking part in a dangerous pastime, hopping back and forth between two subway cars. Although the story does not depict the age of the boys, we can infer that they are of a responsible age. If these children are old enough to be out on their own hopping train cars, with their parents aware, then they are old enough to know the risk factors. The boy knew that this was a daring act, but continued in his carefree actions. The reader can only assume that the four boys had as much responsibility for their well-being as their caretakers did.

The boys were just having fun, but there are times in life that the fun may be too costly. Alfred, Calvin, Tom, and Samuel were not aware of half of the things that could go wrong, but the older passengers, such as the mothers, could only imagine. At one point, an older lady tried to correct the kids, “You boys will be hurt. You’ll be killed.” The boys ignored the woman’s warning and laughed. If the kids would have accepted their correction with respect, things might not have ended so brutally.

After reading this passage, most of us can logically assume that this wasn’t an intelligent pastime. Jumping trains and climbing walls is not the safest, nor smartest thing one can do. They had been warned by an adult of their actions. Neither the forbidding woman, nor the man who pulled the emergency...
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