Comparison of Two Short Stories by Tobias Wolff and T.C Boyle

Topics: Short story, Tobias Wolff, Family Pages: 3 (1263 words) Published: March 22, 2007
From the weekend fishing trips to complete hatred and denial, father-son relationships can be characterized by many good and bad experiences. After reading the two short stories "Powder" by Tobias Wolff and "If the River was Whiskey" by T.C. Boyle, which both feature father-son relationships that are placed under a large amount of stress. There are many similarities and differences between these two relationships that are not apparent upon just a cursory glance. A father can be completely inconsiderate of his sons needs or try his best to meet them and still create turmoil within the relationship.

After reading Wolff's short story "Powder," one can conclude that the father tries quite hard to make his son happy. In this story the father takes the son to places the mother would not approve of in order to try and win his affection. Wolff states, "He'd had to fight for the privilege of my company, because my mother was still angry with him for sneaking me into a nightclub during his last visit, to see Thelonious Monk" (33). Taking his son to these places is his way of forming a father-son connection. Not only does he take his son skiing, he fights his wife for the privilege, and when she disagrees he does it without her knowledge. While this strengthens the father-son relation, the husband-wife relation is weakened. In this case the father is trying more to be the best friend instead of a role model, and in doing so creates conflicts with his wife. This directly affects the son's well being because what child would be happy to see his parents fighting.

In Wolff's story the father is displayed as being a risk-taker and borderline reckless. This is where the father and son seem to clash in their relationship. Wolff writes, "I always thought ahead. I was a boy who kept his clothes on numbered hangers to insure proper rotation. I bothered my teachers for homework assignments far ahead of their due dates so I could draw up schedules" (36). Obviously, his...
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