My father is a whistler. I close my eyes so that I may focus without distraction on the melodic rhythms that flow so easily from his lips. To my dismay, I did not inherit this ability; nor was I able to develop such skill despite my practice. Eventually, the dogs of my childhood would respond to my earnest repetition of something that came out sounding like “worth”. I was uninhibited. Surely, the reason I did not get the solo in elementary school was the result of my not being the principal’s granddaughter. But when I was reprimanded by my mother for humming out of tune, I began to find my silence. She thought that I had contrived a new form of deliberate annoyance. Why would she believe that I would do such a thing? While I was yet to be convinced that I couldn’t carry a tune, I now carried the awareness that my world was not always interpreted according to the reality of my perception. Both Edward P. Jones and Tobias Wolff artfully express the delicate influences of parenting on their offspring.
In “The First Day” by Jones, one sentence creates great depth that takes the reader into the child’s thought world. Even without Dixie Peach hair grease and an absent father, I was standing in my patent-leather prides. I was taken back to the memory of denying the word that had been appropriately uttered when on a family vacation. I did not know then where I had drawn that four letter word from, but I knew why I was using it and I also knew not to make that mistake again. My silence would continue to grow.
Wolff taps into the misunderstood in “the Liar”. The relationship between mother and child articulates the societal drive toward conformity.