Essay on Bad Families in Bel Kaufman's Sunday in the Park

Essay on Bad Families in Bel Kaufman's Sunday in the Park

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Bad Families in Bel Kaufman's Sunday in the Park  

When first read, Bel Kaufman's "Sunday in the Park" seems to be a story about two families in a public park; one family is good and likes to avoid conflict, and the other is a more hostile family consisting of a father and a son, who both seem to be bullies. There are clues in the story, however, that can lead readers to change their opinion about which family is bad or good. Although I was unsuccessful in finding any critical articles to support my thesis about "Sunday in the Park," I believe that there is enough evidence in the story to suggest that my interpretation of the story is a valid one.

In the beginning of the story, the author gives the reader images of the two families that demonstrate the level of goodness in each family. In the first paragraph, Morton, the father of the "good" family, is described as, "reading the Times Magazine section, one arm flung around her [the mother?s] shoulder" (965). Also, the mother?s attitude toward the day is seen when she thinks to herself, "How good this is" (965). Morton and the mother happily watch their son, Larry, play in the sandbox in the park. All these images suggest a happy family that has a good life. Even the thought by the mother expresses the goodness that she feels toward her family and life, in general.

On the other hand, the author explains the "bad" family, Joe and his father, with the use of images that demonstrate "the bully" in each of them. Kaufman introduces Joe by writing, "The other boy suddenly stood up and with a quick, deliberate swing of his chubby arm threw a spadeful of sand at Larry" (965). The speaker describes the father of the child by saying, "He did not look up from his comics, but s...

... middle of paper ... father are enjoying a beautiful day at the park just as Larry?s family is. From Joe?s father?s perspective, his kid can throw sand in a public sandbox unless he says not to. The reader knows that the throwing of the sand is deliberate, but Joe could have thrown the sand just for the simple purpose of getting Larry?s attention so he could have someone to play with. There are clues to suggest that Larry?s mother, in a way, envies Joe and his father because they can stick up for themselves. She is ashamed of her husband and son because they don?t "fight their own battles." The suggestion that Morton is abusive toward the boy also helps the reader to see that Larry?s family is just as bad, if not worse, than Joe?s family.

Works Cited

Kaufman, Bel. "Sunday in the Park." The Harper Anthology of Fiction. Ed Sylvan Barnet. New York: HarperCollins, 1986.



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