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Reading Response to 'The Man in the Well' by Ira Sher

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ENGL 2000
The Man in the Well
By Ira Sher
The entire time I was reading this story I couldn’t decide how I felt. The very first paragraph draws you in when the narrator mentions the day he discovered the man in the well. It’s immediately mentioned how the man calls out for help, but then skips to how the boy and his friends thought it was important that they decided not to save him. This paragraph almost immediately forces you to do a double take. When you first start reading and hear about the man trapped in the well your mind automatically starts thinking about how you would get him out. So when the narrator mentions how they not only left him in the well but are also okay with their decision you can’t help but cringe. Why would you not help the man out of the well? This completely goes against my moral code; even reading about it makes me frustrated. But of course the main characters are children of a pretty young age, so shortly after reading about there decision to leave the man I realized that I was trying to convince myself that its okay, that they didn’t know any better. But how could they not? At any age you know about the value of life and you learn about danger.
The only reason I could imagine why the children wouldn’t rescue the man is fear. They must have been afraid that the man would cause them harm once he was out of the well. When the children decide not to rescue the man there seems to be an unsaid agreement among them not to mention names or show their faces. There were a few times where the little girl Wendy would poke her head over to try and figure out the mysterious mans name, but even he was unwilling to comply. The entire time the man seemed extremely patient, consistently asking if they had gone for help or to retrieve a ladder. Only a few times did he seem to raise his voice and frighten the children off. I didn’t really understand why the children seemed so frightened of the man, and so unwilling to share their names.
This brings up the thought of how we really don’t know who the man in the well is. We don’t know how he fell into a well that’s on an abandoned plot, and we don’t know what he looks like. The man in the well is just a voice. I would think the fact that the children could only hear him would have contributed to their decision to leave him. When you can’t physically see a person but you can hear their voice it would be easier to think of them as something else, perhaps non-human. They’re young enough of children that it is possible that it was just a game of the voice in the well.
Overall this story was extremely frustrating. Not only because I don’t understand how you can find someone stuck in a well and not go for help, but also the fact that we never find out if the man got out. Did someone else ever find him or did he die?

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