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Inspired Scribe
IBIS
Posts: 1,735
Registered: ‎11-22-2006

Re: Family

This chapter is the darkest. The little hints... the small dark comments hinted at in the early chapters... are fully exposed in this chapter. In contrast to Benji closing windows during his parents' arguments, this chapter opens up the window and exposes their private lives.

 

This story puts a lie to the stereotype that only uneducated and socially disadvantaged families live with abuse. Even professional podiatrists with Ivy League educations are abusive. And even more surprising, professional lawyer wives feel they need to suffer silently... and endure exposing her children to their abusive father. 

 

The irony is that, despite their Ivy League education, and their sons' posh private school education, the family is unable to articulate their despair to each other. They who should comfort each other just drift away...  

 

The family and their troubles are perfectly set in 1985. In that era, No one EVER ratted on family abuse . As Benji says... never ask questions, and never tell. 

 

Unlike present-day confession television...

 

Can you imagine Benji, Reggie and their parents sitting on a couch in front of a TV audience and revealing their thoughts on Dr. Phil?

 


rkubie wrote:

This is the first time we see Benji's family together at Sag Harbor. Were you surprised by the picture we get of them?

 


 

 

IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
Distinguished Correspondent
Shadowwolf36
Posts: 76
Registered: ‎09-16-2008

Re: Family

I think this highlights that these types of abuses whether emotional or physical happen in all types of families.  Being highly educated doesn't make one more capable of handling it. I depends on what is happening.  You can be highly educated and still have low self-esteem and feel that you deserve what is happening to you. Every family has stresses and some are much more capable of dealing with these stresses than others.  They are very proud of their heritage but feel that they must live in a predominately white area in order to feel successful. They feel a great need to put out that successful, Cosby facade. Yes in the 80's you didn't let these kinds of abuses out into the public as much but you still find people living with abuse and staying in that relationship -- re:  Rihanna and Chris Brown.
Frequent Contributor
MelissaW
Posts: 40
Registered: ‎01-31-2007
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Re: Family

 

Your reply is almost exactly what I was thinking as I read this.

 

And no, I can't see them sitting with Dr. Phil and discussing their problems on T.V.  There are still people who, to this day, have this same attitude of what happens in the family, stays in the family.

Inspired Contributor
mapleann
Posts: 44
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Family

The physical location of Sag Harbor is a long drawn-out,  immensely intricate and entertaining analogy of Benji‘s family life. It is the covert reality of success. The Cosby family, like Long Island, is on the map. Benji's family, like Sag Harbor, was not, "we knew where our neighborhood began because that's where the map ended" (p. 18). What the Cosby Show did not air, that is where Benji‘s reality began. He wanted to be a Ben, a Theo of sorts, but he was irrevocable a Benji, a nerdy child with a nonconforming hairdo. How easy it would have been to mistake Benji's family for the Cosby family due to their membership is their middle class neighborhood that they resided in while in the city.

 

The house, the careers, and probably the cars are nothing more than a family portrait. It always looks perfect from the outside. It is "faking it"...after all, "It was unmistakable. Everbody was faking it" (p. 66). Yes, I agree, everyone was...and I think that everyone still does today regardless of their background. I think a lot of James's issues with drinking and anger was rooted in his fear of being exposed and being caught "faking it." What I got a kick out of was how his BBQ was touted as being so great, and everyone just loved it. The darn stuff was frickaseed and ash inside. Everyone "faking it!"

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PinkBaby
Posts: 83
Registered: ‎09-03-2008
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Re: Family

yes they were very dsyfunctional family. benji and reggie mom doesnt say a whole alot in this book in their favor. when benji got  punched in the face by his father they quietl y retreated to their rooms. they knew what was happening but did nothing. and i assume his mother went away while his father did this. yes i think alot of you are right when you say it was  like the bill cosby family on the outside. but it sure as heck wasnt on the inside. oh and benjis eye it doesnt say whether they cared if he hurt it or not. it sounds like reggie and benji were  worried that dad would  be mad at them. so they  cleaned the house real good. i think old dad was nuttttttttts.:smileysad:
Moderator
Rachel-K
Posts: 1,495
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Family

These are great lines from early on to pull into this context!  

 


mapleann wrote:

"we knew where our neighborhood began because that's where the map ended" 

 

"It was unmistakable. Everbody was faking it" (p. 66).


 

Inspired Contributor
deaver
Posts: 35
Registered: ‎02-04-2009
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Re: Family

I didn't see any type of affection coming from Benji's mother at all.  I wonder if he just left this side of her character out or if there is no affectionate side towards her children??
Inspired Contributor
fifenhorn
Posts: 36
Registered: ‎01-26-2009
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Re: Family

I wasn't surprised by the family...it seemed to me that is exactly what the boys' parents would be like, since they did leave the kids home alone all the time, for extended periods even.

 

The boys seemed to try and escape, but it didn't always work.  I still don't understand why Benji just didn't LEAVE...I know I would have...even if it meant walking or riding a bike to get away from all of it.

 

I think their mom is just tired of it all and she knows there's not much she can do. I found it sad that protecting her boys was not at the top of her list, whether it had been written after an altercation with Dad or not...the mothering instinct seems to have been "beaten" out of her, and she's just living for the day when she doesn't have to live any more.

 

I would have like to see someone tell the dad just exactly how awful his chicken really was, though!

Inspired Bibliophile
thewanderingjew
Posts: 2,247
Registered: ‎12-18-2007

Re: Family

I thought that while Benji acted out with anger, when he deliberately left the freezer door open and ruined all the ice cream, he didn't hurt anything that lived and breathed. It was a juvenile act of revenge.
Reggie, on the other hand, acts out with sadistic/hostile behavior, aimed more to hurt people rather than things, i.e. testing the gun on Marcus or killing the bird or shooting Benji in the face with the BB gun.

One is handling the abuse in his life in a far healthier way than the other. Both try to avoid dealing with the behavior when it occurs and as a result they react inappropriately later on. They may not even know how to behave appropriately when faced with difficult situations because they have poor examples to follow.

Perhaps Benji's broader experiences help him to see the prospect of a more normal life down the road. Reggie seems beaten by his experiences already.

I am not sure that either boy would have been able to rectify the situations in their homelife because it seemed beyond the control of a youngster and they had no outside allies/mentors to help them. Everyone knew what was going on but even adults avoided dealing with it or helping the families. They all pretended everything was great. Yet it was all surface.

twj

Contributor
Randie_CC
Posts: 7
Registered: ‎01-27-2009

Re: Family

Benji's family dynamics were very interesting.  From the acute knowledge of sounds that lead to verbal and phsyical fights to Reggie avioding being home when their parents were there. 

 

When reading the story, I hoped that the list Benji's mother made would eventually assist her in demanding her husband get help or having her leave this situation.  Reading about how "young" she looked in Sag Harbor made me very sad.  I think Sag Harbor is where she feels like herself.  She must have compartmentalized her life to be able to cope with how difficult and stressful it is.

 

I also wondered what life was like at home for the boys' older sister.  How interesting that she didn't come home often.

Wordsmith
kiakar
Posts: 3,435
Registered: ‎10-19-2006

Re: Family


Shadowwolf36 wrote:
I think this highlights that these types of abuses whether emotional or physical happen in all types of families.  Being highly educated doesn't make one more capable of handling it. I depends on what is happening.  You can be highly educated and still have low self-esteem and feel that you deserve what is happening to you. Every family has stresses and some are much more capable of dealing with these stresses than others.  They are very proud of their heritage but feel that they must live in a predominately white area in order to feel successful. They feel a great need to put out that successful, Cosby facade. Yes in the 80's you didn't let these kinds of abuses out into the public as much but you still find people living with abuse and staying in that relationship -- re:  Rihanna and Chris Brown.

You are so right. Alot of folks say "Why are there so many divorces lately"? The reason is  less and less of our population lives in "see nothing ,hear nothing neighborhoods anymore. Of course there are still those who like playing victim or cannot see theirselves on their own but basically people especially women are demanding respect and dignity. Another thing was,  the mother was a lawyer. So didn't that give her courage to know the facts and have the money to leave and make a new life. I know it wasn't done as much as now but it was still done. I had to leave my home in the late 60's because of abuse and didn't have a very good career at all. But knew I didnt want my two girls to grow up in alcohol and abuse. Education has led to more independence and the awareness of abuse and what to do about it has less complicated the matter of abolishing abuse in modern day marriages. Of course tragedies still happen when someone will not remove him or herself from a harsh abusive situation but I do hope its less than before when women especially felt they had to stay in the marriages. Those being abuse of course can't see something deadly happening to them but now with media and professionals spreading the word, it seems the eyes are opening more than ever. 

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PinkBaby
Posts: 83
Registered: ‎09-03-2008
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Re: Family

oh i agree with you so much. i think  their are  still people out their who still think that just because  their highly educated they cant be highly abusive. and that is so wrong. a nother thing with that mentality they can usually hide it better. we all know of course thats why  reggie got a job as fast as he did . he wanted to avoid his father as much as possible. and yes  he wanted his  own money.
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PinkBaby
Posts: 83
Registered: ‎09-03-2008
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Re: Family

ooooooooo yeah i forgot about the barbeue your right everyone went around and said  how great it was and it was terrible:smileyindifferent:
Frequent Contributor
PinkBaby
Posts: 83
Registered: ‎09-03-2008
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Re: Family

yeah your right she really didnt show any affection towards benji and reggie. and when their father punched benji in the face.  their mother didnt help benji at all. i think she was basically afraid of him. she didnt want to get  hurt her self.:smileysad:
Correspondent
detailmuse
Posts: 180
Registered: ‎01-24-2008
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Re: Family


thewanderingjew wrote:

I thought that while Benji acted out with anger, when he deliberately left the freezer door open and ruined all the ice cream, he didn't hurt anything that lived and breathed. It was a juvenile act of revenge.
Reggie, on the other hand, acts out with sadistic/hostile behavior, aimed more to hurt people rather than things, i.e. testing the gun on Marcus or killing the bird or shooting Benji in the face with the BB gun.

One is handling the abuse in his life in a far healthier way than the other.


I'm not sure. Non-violent crimes still hurt people. Were the financial repercussions and dismay that Martine suffered from the loss of a freezer-full of ice cream less harm than, say, a physical punch?

 

I think Benji was hostile and aimed to hurt Martine. But he's just more passive and indirect about it, not necessarily healthier.

Distinguished Correspondent
emmagrace
Posts: 162
Registered: ‎12-04-2008
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Re: Family

 
Distinguished Correspondent
emmagrace
Posts: 162
Registered: ‎12-04-2008
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Re: Family

I was surpised to see the way the family acted around each other. It seemed like they all would rather be somewhere else.

 

The boys cope by ignoring everything and remaining silent. Reggie schedules his shifts around the time that his parents are in town.

 

Benji's mother does not cope well. She just runs away and does not defend herself or her children.

Inspired Contributor
deaver
Posts: 35
Registered: ‎02-04-2009
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Re: Family

Yes, 

Perhaps fear is one of the reasons that the mother's affections were frozen but there had to be more.  I mean no where in the book do I see an affectionate or motherly display of warmth and gentleness that we women naturally have towards our children.  You would think that she would make an extra effort to give this to the boys since the father behaves like such a drill sargent.  Perhaps she adheres to the belief that this type of affection will make them sissys; could it be she's afraid the dad thinks affection will make them soft and fears him?

Inspired Scribe
IBIS
Posts: 1,735
Registered: ‎11-22-2006
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Re: Family

[ Edited ]

I agree with detailmuse's comment that even if Benji's underhanded guerrilla-tactic of sabotage did not cause any physical damage, it was definitely hostile...  no less healthier than Reggie's physical self-destructiveness.

 

Benji's tactice was very sneaky... especially since he covered himself and indirectly pointed the blame to NP. It was kind of cowardly. 

 

This incident showcased an unadmirable character trait of Benji that must be thrown into the mix for readers who found him likeable.

 


detailmuse wrote:

thewanderingjew wrote:

I thought that while Benji acted out with anger, when he deliberately left the freezer door open and ruined all the ice cream, he didn't hurt anything that lived and breathed. It was a juvenile act of revenge.
Reggie, on the other hand, acts out with sadistic/hostile behavior, aimed more to hurt people rather than things, i.e. testing the gun on Marcus or killing the bird or shooting Benji in the face with the BB gun.

One is handling the abuse in his life in a far healthier way than the other.


I'm not sure. Non-violent crimes still hurt people. Were the financial repercussions and dismay that Martine suffered from the loss of a freezer-full of ice cream less harm than, say, a physical punch?

 

I think Benji was hostile and aimed to hurt Martine. But he's just more passive and indirect about it, not necessarily healthier.


 

Message Edited by IBIS on 03-13-2009 12:40 AM
IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
Inspired Contributor
mapleann
Posts: 44
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Family


IBIS wrote: 

 

This incident showcased an unadmirable character trait of Benji that must be thrown into the mix for readers who found him likeable.

 


I actually thought the incident made him more likable. He would be the "rum raisin" rather than the artificially plain and over commercialized and mass produced vanilla or chocolate flavors. He definitely added a "spike" to his waffling non-identity. I also think that it was after this incident that Benji was willing to take more risks in other parts of his life too, but I cannot link this at the moment through the text, just a hunch. I do also agree with detailmuse that the act was underhanded and an act of sabotage, but I also think Benji may have partially felt that Martine's head patting was also an underhanded act of sabotage to his image amongst his peers and maybe even his self-image too (Martine's motive still a mystery to me-and evidently somewhat to the mature Benji protagonist).