The Girl Next Door

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In “The Girl Next Door” there are several relationships explored. The contrasting themes of intimacy and distance as well as closeness and separation are depicted through the characters portrayed in the story. One relationship is between the protaganist and his mother, which appears to be close and intimate but also seems dysfunctional. Another relationship is between Brandi and her mother, which is distant and separate. The last relationship is between the protagonist and Brandi, a nine year old girl. The protagonist tries to transcend the class and cultural differences and be a positive influence in the girl’s life, but is unsuccessful in his efforts. Through the examination of the narrator’s experience with Brandi, we learn about the intricate and complex relationships in his own life and how that has influenced his response to the wider world. The story opens with dialogue between the mother and son. Immediatley, the reader is thrust into the middle of a tirade by the mother. One can begin to see the dynamic of the relationship in action. This is seen here “Oh, no, my mother said. They’re not to blame. Let’s be honest now. She liked to take my problems back to the source, which was usually me.” The mother is portrayed as dismissive and combatitive to the son’s problems. This lays a foundation for greater understanding of the protagonist’s motives for trying to help Brandi. From growing up with a parent this dismissive it is easy to understand why the protagonist has sympathy for Brandi. It seems as though he saw a part of himself in her. While the relationship between the mother and son may not be perfect, the mother clearly does care for her son and wants to help him with his problems. On the other hand, the relationship between Brandi and her mother is very troubled. The central action of the plot revolves around the narrator’s attempts to befriend his young neighbor, Brandi. Brandi and her mother are very poor, low class and dysfunctional while the...
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