Choose a novel or short story in which the main

Choose a novel or short story in which the main character faces a dilemma.
Outline briefly what the dilemma is and go on to discuss how the character’s reaction
gives you a deeper understanding of the text as a whole.
The short story ‘Father and Son’ is a heart-breaking story by Bernard MacLaverty.
It’s about a father’s struggle and fear to handle the dilemma that his son is in danger
and is again involved in violence and drugs as he was in the past. This story is set in
Ireland at the time of The Troubles and through narration and style, we see how
MacLaverty portrays the father’s constant agitation which deepens our sympathy for
him in his attempt to reach out to his son and keep him safe.
MacLaverty is trying to enforce that we need to rekindle our troubled
relationships before it’s too late. ‘Father and Son’ ends in the tragic death of the son
and thus we see, to build happier, more cohesive relationships in our own lives, we
must not follow the father’s mistakes in the story.
Throughout the story, there are various types of first person narration from the
father’s view to the son’s. MacLaverty cleverly, occasionally adds a third person
narrator so the readers can have a stance from an outside perspective on the dilemma
when we see the son ‘take up the newspaper between him and his father.’ Here we
see that no matter how hard the father tries to talk to his son and sort out the problems
they have, the son will always actively put up a barrier. He wants nothing to do with
his dad and the newspaper symbolises the massive gulf between the two. This
dilemma the father is forced with not only helps us understand how he feels but
relates to the key theme of conflict between the two sides there was in Ireland. There
is no way of resolution just like the father can never connect to his own son.
MacLaverty also skilfully uses a vast contrast to symbolise how the dilemma
the son has forced upon the father has completely changed his life. He used to ‘grow
vegetables for half the street’ which gives us an insight to previous times where the
father was happy and fulfilled. It emphasises the fact that he has not handled his
son’s problems well and it has torn apart his life as now, ‘the weeds have taken over’
his once fruitful gardens. He is, symbolically, a rotten, decayed version of himself
which is now absolutely useless. His son’s involvement with drugs has caused the
father to become a different person as a result of the emotional turmoil of potentially
losing his son. It heightens the importance that drugs and violence impact everyone
involved, even if it’s not directly. We pity the father as his reaction has turned his
whole life around and he is a shadow of his former self.
Through the important use of onomatopoeia, MacLaverty conveys the father’s
utter fear every time his son leaves the house as ‘the door shudders.’ This is how the
father feels: shaken and terrified by the outdoors. Whenever his son leaves, he
automatically thinks he is in trouble; he is unsafe and in danger of his old life catching
up with him. The door is the barrier between safety and danger for the father. We
feel sympathy for him because it shows how unstable and paranoid someone can
become through a loved one’s embroilment with drugs and violence. This dilemma
leaves him trapped in fear for every move his son makes. We understand why the
father is the way he is but also see him as a universal figure as many were living in
fear during the time of The Troubles in Ireland.
MacLaverty uses a combination of foreshadowing and irony to convey how
nobody is safe and the father’s assumptions in relation to the dilemma were wrong.
Throughout the story there are references to the news and the radio, all of which,
bring a sense of dread to the father as he always thinks he will hear on these that his
son is dead. However, when ‘the news comes to his door,’ it is the climax of the
whole story as death crosses the alleged safety barrier and taints the father’s perceived
notion of the secure environment of the house. It’s extremely ironic as the father
thought his son was safe if he was at home with his father, yet it is on the doorstep
where he is shot. This suggests that no one can escape the consequences of drugs and
violence however hard they try. Wherever there is violence and conflict, death is
always near, and MacLaverty cleverly conveys this through his use of irony. The
dilemma of how best to deal with his son’s involvement in drugs has ended in tragedy
through the father’s lack of action and failure to resolve the issue which is upsetting
for the reader.
By the father’s constant procrastination, we see how his reaction to his son’s
problems was to avoid the truth and reality of how greatly he was at risk and in
danger. He constantly planned to resolve and consolidate his relationship with his son
by planning to talk to him but he was afraid, and kept finding ways to delay it from
‘tonight’ to the ‘weekend-if he’s home.’
He was subconsciously avoiding
confrontation as he did not want to know what trouble his son was in. He was
desperate to have a conversation with him but continued to lie to himself and avoid
reality. This portrayed the fear he was constantly in that his son was going to die and
MacLaverty makes this procrastination clear when the father says ‘you are not badly
hurt’ when his son lies dead on the door-step. He does not handle the truth and
actually forces himself to delude himself and believe what is obviously untrue. This
really urges the reader to reflect on their own relationships and embrace the truth
behind them, even if sometimes it can be worrying or terrible, because we do not want
to have tricked ourselves away from reality because of a single dilemma.
‘Father and Son’ is a moving short story by MacLaverty that has a large
impact on the reader. It forces us to evaluate how we face our own dilemmas and also
pushes us to correct our malfunctioning relationships before it is too late as it was for
the father and son. MacLaverty never gives us the characters’ names because this has
happened to a countless amount of people and represents the many lives ruined by
failing to resolve the issues we face.
Clearly focuses on task. Uses relevant areas and evaluates what the text
teaches us.
Vary sentences more – they are short so join them together and use commas,
parenthesis more for emphasis. A lot of sentences start in the same way (the,
this, it) – use adverbs, subordinate/participle clauses etc. for variation.