The Red Ball and Two Kinds: How Sympathy for the Characters is Evoked

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How do the writers of two short stories make you feel sympathy for the main characters?

In ‘The Red Ball’ and ‘Two Kinds’, we read about a number of characters who experience unhappiness in their lives. In ‘The Red Ball’, the young boy, Bolan, feels isolated from people of his own age, is bullied by his resentful father and is eventually beaten very badly for supposedly stealing his parents’ savings. In ‘Two Kinds’, Jing Mei is forced by her mother to become a ‘child prodigy’, so much so that she first becomes unhappy and then, later, starts to rebel. Her relationship with her mother is damaged as a result. The reader inevitably feels a lot of sympathy for these characters.

Bolan is a newcomer to Port of Spain and this makes him feel lonely and isolated. It appears that the only relationship he manages to form is with the statue of Neptune in Woodford Square, which his imagination brings to life: ‘half expecting the severe lips to smile or even curl in anger at him.’ At first he is cut off from boys of his own age. They refer to him as ‘thinny boney’ and ‘matchstick foot’ (a reference to him being malnourished, perhaps) and he is forced to simply watch from a distance as they play cricket together. At this point, the reader really feels sympathy for Bolan because of his loneliness. Furthermore, we feel sympathy once more for Bolan because of the way his father speaks to him, calling him “boy” and never Bolan, Bolan’s father calling him “boy” makes you feel sympathy for him because it shows that his father shows no love or affection for Bolan; this is continued when Bolan overhears his parents saying that as soon as they had some money saved up they had to go and have a child, “As soon as we did have a li’l money save we have to go and get a. . .” “A child?” We feel sympathy for Bolan because his father shows that he wishes he had more savings and no children so he could buy or do what he wanted without having to look after and spend money on a child....
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