The Ant of the Self

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The Ant of the Self

Most seventh graders know the principle that oil and water don't mix. No matter how much the solution is shaken or stirred, the water will settle to the bottom and the oil will rise above to the surface. These attributes describing water and oil directly describe the relationship between Spurgeon and Ray, the two main characters in ZZ Packer's "The Ant of the Self." Spurgeon, the "water" and intelligent son of Ray Bivens Jr., finds himself carrying the burden of supporting his self-centered, inappreciative father, the "oil," on his shoulders. Oblivious to his son's needs as well as others in the story, Ray tramples over the true meaning of an intimate relationship and worsens or even crumbles his existing ones.

When thinking about a father and son relationship, one would imagine love, respect, and support, however, in terms of Spurgeon and Ray's relationship, it can be described as a business transaction. Spurgeon supports his father throughout the story although he knows his father's misleading ways. On the other hand, Spurgeon does not get any recognition from his father for being there. For example, at the beginning of the story, Spurgeon bails his father out of jail with his money he earned from debate. Instead of thanking him and showing his appreciation, Ray says, "Opportunities. You've got to invest your money if you want opportunities" (72). Ray already thinks about fast ways of making money and during the car ride, Ray has Spurgeon drive him to Jasper to pick up birds that he will sell at the Million Man March, 700 miles away in Washington, D.C. Spurgeon knows that his father has a plan to make some fast money and advises him that it is a bad plan. Spurgeon also has a debate the next day which he will miss if he drives to Washington, D.C. Ray retorts, "Don't you want your money back? One macaw will pay back that bail money three times over" (74). Knowing that his father is adamant about his bird business, he drives...
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