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no4daughter
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Re: Gangsters

What I took away from this chapter is how easy it is for a person, even one like Benji with good intentions (being there to protect his brother), to get caught up in a "group mentality".  Benji knew that the gunfight could lead to disastrous consequences but went along with the group anyway by purchasing a gun, practicing shooting, and planning the event.  Although only bb's were used in this gunfight, it doesn't take too much of a leap to see how easy it would be for a good intentioned individual to go along with something that he knows is wrong and end up paying for it in some way.   
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no4daughter
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Re: Gangsters

I noticed that some were wondering how old Benji was and offer this insight:  Ice Cube was born on June 15, 1969.
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libralady
Posts: 159
Registered: ‎09-23-2008
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Re: Gangsters

I think what leads kids to behave like this is that they are kids.  Kids who are left unsupervised for the most part.  Earlier in the book, Ben talked about how they would go to the beach, walk the beach in search of the supposed "nude beach", play games at the Tuck Shop and other harmless activities.  As they grow older, these things dont excite them anymore, so they look for things to do that have more adventure tied to them. 

 

I dont see the shooting incident  as a boyish prank.  I think the guns made the group feel powerful and "gangster", no more little boy games.  While I dont think injuring anyone was part of the plan, I do believe that some of the group, especially Randy, intended to inflict some type of pain so that he would/could be declared the winner.  To me, Randy seemd somewhat of a rogue.  He really did not belong in this group as he was 2 years older.  I think they accepted him because he had the car and as they started to get older, the bikes became less attractive.  It seemed that Randy was always trying to establish his dominance over the group, whether it was determining who got to ride in the front seat, or who got left out, or who could try out his BB gun.

"Sow today what you want to reap tomorrow"
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Jennd1
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Re: Gangsters

I thiink Benji means that they (the group) were always fighting to survive on some level, eitheri n a bb gun fight or on the social ladder or thru life in general.  It is amazing the ways good kids come up with ideas that "seemed like a good  idea at the time."  The foreshadowing of the future is errie, but hind sight is twenty twenty as well.  It is easy to see the begining when you look back later on,but I think the outcome would have been the same in many ways (as far as how things are in the future) if the bb battle had not taken place.  Each of the boys would have had another first time with a  gun. 
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IBIS
Posts: 1,735
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Re: Ben's Abusive Father

[ Edited ]

At last, we get a clear glimpse into his parents' marriage. Throughout the earlier sections of the book, I kept wondering, "What is Ben not telling us about this parents' marriage?"

 

When I read the scene where Ben tells us about his father hitting him, my reaction was, "Okay, here it is". This incident answers a lot of questions that surfaced in earlier chapters but were never directly addressed by Ben.

 

It's heart-breaking that his mother did not come to his defense. And even more so because, in his shock, he hoped that she would. 

 

It's eye-opening how evenhandedly, even forgivingly, the author views the mother's moral dilemma. The author explains the mothers inaction by revealing her handwritten note. Her point of view is revealed indirectly.

 

Blaming the mother is a bit harsh and unfair. This story takes place in a specific time, and domestic abuse wasn't as publicly exposed in the 80s as it is today. Suffering in silence is what Ben's mother probably felt she had to do to survive her marriage. Today, the stigma of living with an abusive spouse is no longer as shameful. 

 

This perspective of Ben's private life made him even more sympathetic to me. 


aprilh wrote:
We get a glimpse of Benji's home life with the story he tells about his father hitting him across the face multiple times for not punching a kid in school. I could feel the panic he felt trying to remember anything wrong he'd done in the last few days. It makes me sad to think this is what his home life is like with his dad. The fact that his mother sat there and watched and didn't say anything really made me lose respect for her too. She should have stood up for her son. When Reggie finds the note in their mother's handwriting  listing all the things her husband does to her I felt like I understood where she was coming from better, but it still didn't make up for her not protecting her son. I'm almost glad now the parents do not come out often to Sag Harbor. It's probably the only time the kids feel truly able to relax.

 

Message Edited by IBIS on 02-24-2009 11:04 PM
IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
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DSaff
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Re: Ben's Abusive Father

I agree with both of you, and was angry with both parents at first. When I looked back on the time period, it hit me that "suffering in silence" was the way to survive. It surely affected the children, and I think Ben lost some respect for his mother because she didn't step in. I was really angry with his father for hitting him without any explanation of why he was really so angry. Ben's father was going through his own private hell. Too bad he took it out on those around him.


IBIS wrote:

At last, we get a clear glimpse into his parents' marriage. Throughout the earlier sections of the book, I kept wondering, "What is Ben not telling us about this parents' marriage?"

 

When I read the scene where Ben tells us about his father hitting him, my reaction was, "Okay, here it is". This incident answers a lot of questions that surfaced in earlier chapters but were never directly addressed by Ben.

 

It's heart-breaking that his mother did not come to his defense. And even more so because, in his shock, he hoped that she would. 

 

It's eye-opening how evenhandedly, even forgivingly, the author views the mother's moral dilemma. The author explains the mothers inaction by revealing her handwritten note. Her point of view is revealed indirectly.

 

Blaming the mother is a bit harsh and unfair. This story takes place in a specific time, and domestic abuse wasn't as publicly exposed in the 80s as it is today. Suffering in silence is what Ben's mother probably felt she had to do to survive her marriage. Today, the stigma of living with an abusive spouse is no longer as shameful. 

 

This perspective of Ben's private life made him even more sympathetic to me. 


aprilh wrote:
We get a glimpse of Benji's home life with the story he tells about his father hitting him across the face multiple times for not punching a kid in school. I could feel the panic he felt trying to remember anything wrong he'd done in the last few days. It makes me sad to think this is what his home life is like with his dad. The fact that his mother sat there and watched and didn't say anything really made me lose respect for her too. She should have stood up for her son. When Reggie finds the note in their mother's handwriting  listing all the things her husband does to her I felt like I understood where she was coming from better, but it still didn't make up for her not protecting her son. I'm almost glad now the parents do not come out often to Sag Harbor. It's probably the only time the kids feel truly able to relax.

 

Message Edited by IBIS on 02-24-2009 11:04 PM

 

DonnaS =) " Reading is a means of thinking with another person's mind; it forces you to stretch your own." Charles Scribner
"A book is like a garden carried in the pocket." Chinese Proverb
My blog: http://bookworm56.blogspot.com
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reader76
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Registered: ‎02-05-2009
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Re: Gangsters

First of all, I think the boys were bored and looking for something exciting to do with their time.  As the saying goes, "Boys will be boys".  I think there is a stereotypical image that boys look up to, being the strong, manly, bad a** toting a gun protecting the innocent.  You know, like a Terminator or Rambo.  Eventhough, Benji did not like playing with BB guns, he went along with Randy because he did not want to be a wimp.  

Randy, on the other hand, is an overgrown child who needs to grow up.  He is hanging out with kids younger than him and I think he liked having the power of saying what goes because for awhile, he was the one with the keys to the car.   

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aprilh
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Re: Ben's Abusive Father

I don't think blaming Benji's mother for sitting idly by is unfair. I grew up in the late 80's with an abusive father and a mother who was too afraid to stand up to him. I realize Benji's mother felt she had to "suffer in silence" to make it through her marriage, but I feel that she was a mother first and it was her job to protect her children above anything else. Parents have the oppotunity to choose which path in life they take, but children don't have those same choices. It's the parents that decide for the children and in this case, even if Benji's mother was too afraid to leave his father, then she should have found a way to keep the children away from him then sit back and watch, saying nothing. If she would have tried anything, even trying to tell him to stop hitting Benji, then I would have felt differently about her character.


IBIS wrote:

At last, we get a clear glimpse into his parents' marriage. Throughout the earlier sections of the book, I kept wondering, "What is Ben not telling us about this parents' marriage?"

 

When I read the scene where Ben tells us about his father hitting him, my reaction was, "Okay, here it is". This incident answers a lot of questions that surfaced in earlier chapters but were never directly addressed by Ben.

 

It's heart-breaking that his mother did not come to his defense. And even more so because, in his shock, he hoped that she would. 

 

It's eye-opening how evenhandedly, even forgivingly, the author views the mother's moral dilemma. The author explains the mothers inaction by revealing her handwritten note. Her point of view is revealed indirectly.

 

Blaming the mother is a bit harsh and unfair. This story takes place in a specific time, and domestic abuse wasn't as publicly exposed in the 80s as it is today. Suffering in silence is what Ben's mother probably felt she had to do to survive her marriage. Today, the stigma of living with an abusive spouse is no longer as shameful. 

 

This perspective of Ben's private life made him even more sympathetic to me. 


aprilh wrote:
We get a glimpse of Benji's home life with the story he tells about his father hitting him across the face multiple times for not punching a kid in school. I could feel the panic he felt trying to remember anything wrong he'd done in the last few days. It makes me sad to think this is what his home life is like with his dad. The fact that his mother sat there and watched and didn't say anything really made me lose respect for her too. She should have stood up for her son. When Reggie finds the note in their mother's handwriting  listing all the things her husband does to her I felt like I understood where she was coming from better, but it still didn't make up for her not protecting her son. I'm almost glad now the parents do not come out often to Sag Harbor. It's probably the only time the kids feel truly able to relax.

 

Message Edited by IBIS on 02-24-2009 11:04 PM

April
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IBIS
Posts: 1,735
Registered: ‎11-22-2006

Re: Ben's Abusive Father

[ Edited ]

April, I understand your point of view... parents definitely have a duty to protect their young.

 

Ben's mother does has maternal instincts. On p. 5 when she is shopping... "Every couple of months our mother bought us some clothes at Gimbels -- security cameras capture her foraging for her cubs, murmuring "Two of these, and two of these" -- and then tossed them into our cage for us to hyena-yip over who got what."

 

From that metaphor of mother as foraging huntress, the author tells us that she is a fine mother. She does not lack maternal instincts.

 

That raises the question, "Why not protect her sons." I think the author is drawing a parallel with her teenaged sons' wanting to control their world, but they're still caught in that man-child twilight zone... not quite in full control. Teenagers, as well as married mothers, are trapped in circumstances that form barriers beyond their agency.

 

His mother, even as an adult, is caught in constraining circumstances... in her case they're political and societal... she is caught up in a situation over which she has little control. Her husband is a powerful figure, and she is trapped in this miserable marriage. 

 

Maybe she is instrumental in not having her husband visit Sag Harbor during the week and weekends. Maybe this is one of her strategies to keep the boys safe... if only temporarily. 

 

This aspect of her sitting by and not coming to his defense, although not admirable, is certainly understandable, and I think, forgivable. 


aprilh wrote:

I don't think blaming Benji's mother for sitting idly by is unfair. I grew up in the late 80's with an abusive father and a mother who was too afraid to stand up to him. I realize Benji's mother felt she had to "suffer in silence" to make it through her marriage, but I feel that she was a mother first and it was her job to protect her children above anything else. Parents have the oppotunity to choose which path in life they take, but children don't have those same choices. It's the parents that decide for the children and in this case, even if Benji's mother was too afraid to leave his father, then she should have found a way to keep the children away from him then sit back and watch, saying nothing. If she would have tried anything, even trying to tell him to stop hitting Benji, then I would have felt differently about her character.


IBIS wrote:

At last, we get a clear glimpse into his parents' marriage. Throughout the earlier sections of the book, I kept wondering, "What is Ben not telling us about this parents' marriage?"

 

When I read the scene where Ben tells us about his father hitting him, my reaction was, "Okay, here it is". This incident answers a lot of questions that surfaced in earlier chapters but were never directly addressed by Ben.

 

It's heart-breaking that his mother did not come to his defense. And even more so because, in his shock, he hoped that she would. 

 

It's eye-opening how evenhandedly, even forgivingly, the author views the mother's moral dilemma. The author explains the mothers inaction by revealing her handwritten note. Her point of view is revealed indirectly.

 

Blaming the mother is a bit harsh and unfair. This story takes place in a specific time, and domestic abuse wasn't as publicly exposed in the 80s as it is today. Suffering in silence is what Ben's mother probably felt she had to do to survive her marriage. Today, the stigma of living with an abusive spouse is no longer as shameful. 

 

This perspective of Ben's private life made him even more sympathetic to me. 

 


 

Message Edited by IBIS on 02-25-2009 05:53 PM
IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
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detailmuse
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Re: Ben's Abusive Father

Yes! I wondered this, too.

 

I'm not sure she's suffering in silence -- I wondered if her notes on the paper were intended for a therapist, or police, etc.

 


IBIS wrote:

Maybe she is instrumental in not having her husband visit Sag Harbor during the week and weekends. Maybe this is one of her strategies to keep the boys safe... if only temporarily. 


aprilh wrote:

... even if Benji's mother was too afraid to leave his father, then she should have found a way to keep the children away from him

 

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detailmuse
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Re: Ben's Abusive Father


IBIS wrote:

It's eye-opening how evenhandedly, even forgivingly, the author views the mother's moral dilemma. The author explains the mothers inaction by revealing her handwritten note. Her point of view is revealed indirectly.


Thank you for pointing this out! It's masterful writing. At the time, Benji can't have felt evenhanded or forgiving, even with the note. Even if he's witnessed the abuse on his mother? But it begs readers to pause in their judgements.

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PinkBaby
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Re: Gangsters

yes the incidents with the bb guns was completely uncool. i mean yes benji could lost his eye. plus  they were  testing the guns out on each  other that was not good. i mean i know they were teenagersbut seeing how many rifle pumps they had by testing out on someone is just stupid.plus when i read the part where benji tries to get that out of his eye. it made me hurt ouchhhhhhhhh.:smileysad:
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PinkBaby
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Re: Ben's Abusive Father

oooooooooooo yesss  the incident was terrible.  his father said  why didnt you punch  him. and then with lighting speed his father punched him in the face. then he says couldnt you hit him harder then his father hit him again. and everybody else quietly went away while benji was being hit.:smileymad:
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DSaff
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Re: Ben's Abusive Father

I have another idea about the note. She may have been making a list to gather strength for making a choice. It may be what she needs to stand up, what she needs to get help from others like the police or a therapist. There are lots of good posts about the note!

detailmuse wrote:

Yes! I wondered this, too.

 

I'm not sure she's suffering in silence -- I wondered if her notes on the paper were intended for a therapist, or police, etc.

 


DonnaS =) " Reading is a means of thinking with another person's mind; it forces you to stretch your own." Charles Scribner
"A book is like a garden carried in the pocket." Chinese Proverb
My blog: http://bookworm56.blogspot.com
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EbonyAngel
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Re: Gangsters


rkubie wrote:

This chapter might be the classic example of "it's only fun until someone loses an eye. "

 

What leads such perfectly intelligent kids to behave like this?

 

Is this incident just a boyish prank, or does this shed a more ominous light on Randy's character?

 

Benji says at the end of the chapter, that their fights "were always real." What does he mean by this?


 

Intelligent kids is sorta an oxymoron.  :smileyvery-happy:  I do think it gave incite into Randy's character and more inportant, his future.  As far as their fights always being real, it's like when you watch a nature program and the cubs or whatever play fight, it's a testing of your standing.
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canterbear
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Re: Gangsters

I gew up next door to some kids with BB guns and the older they got they went from BB guns to real guns. 

I suppose for some kids this can be a fad or fun thing to do..but shooting birds is not,

nor is shooting at each other.  Kids try too hard to fit in.

I dont know if the "intellegence" factor appiled to all the characters in this book.

Lack of parents being present did not help either.

 

By real fights I think they did hit each other and wrestle.. 

. I see parents all the time say, well boys will be boys and even hit their own kid, smack them on the side of the head.  So, kids mirror what they experience in their own familes many times.

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emmagrace
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Re: Gangsters

What leads perfectly intelligent kids to behave like this? Boredom? We all do silly/dangerous things on occassion. My brothers and I had bb guns when we were little and we had a battle with them and my brother was hurt pretty bad. We never even thought about the danger.

 

From what I can tell so far, it was a boyish prank. This incident does give me a little insight into Randy's future.

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StellaBee
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Re: Gangsters

I agree that Randy may be on his way to more trouble in the future.  He seems like a ticking time bomb with major control issues.

 

When Benji says their fights "were always real," I think he means underneath the surface these young men were acting out the feelings they couldn't openly express.  The fights were always real because their feelings were always real.

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jholcomb
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Re: Gangsters

It's interesting how terrified the kids are of getting caught, to the extent that no one wants to help Benji get to a doctor. This is the same impulse that lets kids die of alcohol poisoning; it's complete paralysis. Even if they know, intellectually, that what could happen if they try to hide it (as with Benji's injury) is worse than any punishment you're likely to get, they just can't force themselves to 'fess up.
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IBIS
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Re: Gangsters

What's even more heart-breaking was that afterwards, when their parents finally came to Sag Harbor for the weekend, they didn't even notice that Ben had been wounded.

 

It made me wonder how these highly educated parents... a lawyer and a podiatrist... could NOT notice that their son has BB scars on his face and eye?

 

I'm beginning to wonder about this family. 

IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."