03-06-2009 10:35 PM
I thought that this was a great chapter! Benji describes them like the Cosbys, dad is a doctor, mom is a lawyer and then there are three great kids, but that's where the similarities end. Benji's father is extremely abusive. The whole family does there best to avoid flare-ups with him and when one person is in the line of fire the other members can relax a little b/c it's not them this time. The abuse we witness is mostly verbal but I wonder if there is not physical abuse going on as well. Benji does his best to avoid the neighbors finding out about his father's tirades (shutting all the doors and windows so no one can hear) is he minimalizing and hiding other abuses as well? I think that the writing in this chapter is wonderfully descriptive. I had an uneasy feeling in my stomach reading it, hoping that Benji did not get caught in his father's wrath and feeling sorry for his mother as well. It makes me wonder what goes on in the family's home in NYC during the summer while the boys are away and how much abuse his mother suffers then. It also makes me wonder if the father's abuse is the reason why Elena seems to stay away from the family now that she is in college.
I couldn't have said it better myself!
"I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see. " --John Burroughs
03-08-2009 01:13 PM
I have to agree with you on your assestment of the family dynamics.
Earlier in the book when Benji was "harassed" by other people in the school and Benji did nothing, his father hit him to teach him a lesson.
I felt this was the first step towards a dysfunctional family. His father had to have deep rooted problems to handle a social problem in this manner.
His drinking and Benji's dislike of his drinking reinforced my thinking on this.
I wonder though, is this what a black family going up the corporate ladder in the 80's had to scrafice?
That is a good family life without stress and cares or where all family's dealingwith similiar social issues so this was the norm for that period in our society?
03-09-2009 01:45 PM
I think that Benji's getting a haircut from someone else other than his dad said a lot about how he wanted to grow up...to be "Ben" and not the little "Benji" he was. I also think that his dad's comment pointed out that even DAD saw his son slipping away.
The entire drinking scene was so strong! Like many, I expected the battle to be about the television...and you know, it might just have been, except that his dad must have seen how Benji had been growing up (and apart). Dad probably suspected that if he'd tried something or started a battle with Benji, he might just lose this time. That's likely why he turned on his wife.
Reggie had the right idea with the shift changing...he didn't have to deal with any of it. Benji should have just beat feet out of the house saying he was going to someone's house and then head over to Jonni Waffle for the day.
03-09-2009 04:57 PM
03-09-2009 08:07 PM
03-09-2009 11:18 PM
Wow, everything changes in this chapter. This book just gets better and better the more I read.
This is where Benji is making his most astute observations about people, life, and the sad realities of the innerworkings of relationships. What started as a light-hearted, funny story transforms into a darker, more serious one. I really liked Benji's innocence throughout the first chapters and it is heartbreaking to see him becoming aware of the dysfunction around him. It works like that, though - one minute a child, the next minute an adult. I really like how we are witnesses to this transformation, to the events that turned the young boy into the adult man. I felt like I was right there with him, knowing so much about him at that point that I could feel the letdown, the disappointment when the special lens of childhood was scraped away. I am sometimes thankful for the things I know now but also regretful that I cannot look at things with the same innocence as I used to. This is especially true when it comes to parents and other family members. Even without dysfunction it is hard to admit that they are human beings with all their flaws.
03-10-2009 12:38 PM
Each tock, thunk, rasp, poomp built more dread, and when Bobby bailed and Benji was stuck in the house, my heart sank.
This is where Whitehead's descriptions really start to pay off. I could feel my stomach tighten with each new drink. What goes on off the page is left open, and I think this is what makes the writing work.
03-11-2009 07:07 AM
Like so many other posters stated, it was obvious that everyone in the family tired to prevent a flare up from Dad. Ben listens to the sound of Dad opening the liquer cabinet and tries to decide how quickly he can get out of the house and who he can go with.
When Ben couldn't leave the house I felt let down for him. I thought that something was going to happen with the father and I was hoping that Ben would find some other way to get out of the house. As someone else mentioned, he could have gone to Jonni Waffle, or even just walked around Sag Harbor.
It finally happened though, Dad went off on Mom, over paper plates. It's obvious that the women on the beach can hear, and I wonder what they think. Ben mentions that people stick to their own business when it comes to what goes on in someone else's house, but will they acknowledge it when she comes back from the store, or will they just keep on going as if nothing happened?
"A house without books is like a room without windows."--Horace Mann
03-12-2009 12:21 PM
03-12-2009 07:10 PM
I loved this chapter, and I felt it really showcased Mr. Whitehead's talent.
First, it filled in things regarding the parents. Why were they missing from so much of the novel? Maybe because Mr. Whitehead didn't want Benji and Reggie defined early on by having dysfunctional parents. What a wonderful way to let us get to know the boys first !
It also brought a dose of reality into the story. Until this point, the boys' lives in Sag Harbor seemed a little too idyllic. Yes, they had their issues and troubles, but mostly they were just looking to have fun. This chapter brought things into focus. I found myself identifying with Benji so much, even though my upbringing was not very similar....except for a Dad who drank and a Mom who didn't stand up to him. This chapter rang true for me, right down to the details of the liquor cabinet noises and the foreboding they brought.
03-13-2009 02:01 AM
What are some ways each family member tries "to prevent flare ups?"
I think we see a lot of this prevention in this chapter, mainly becuase the parents are out finally.
Benji: He stays in bed as long as he can, sneaks into the bathroom for a while and then sneaks into his parent's room to call and make sure Bobby is going to pick him up. While he is downstairs with his father he engrosses himself in The Road Warrior as a way to distance himself a little from his father.
Reggie: Reggie just throws himself into work and works the late shift Friday, double shifts on Saturday. He just tries to stay out of the house as much as possible.
The Mother: She gets herself ready and heads down to the beach with her friends. She gets the macaroni salad ready early so that it's done when James finishes griling. Once the paper plate incident happens she tries to put a damper on the situation by explaining that the stores were out of the plastic plates.
The Father: Even though he is the center of most of the flare-ups he has a rotine and he sticks to it to keep things "normal". Getting the gril ready, getting the chicken ready are all part of his place in Sag Harbor. I don't know if he does this routine for himself or his Sag Harbor friends, but either way I think he gets a sense of satisfaction when people are congregating at his house and eating his food.
03-13-2009 04:56 AM
I didn't think about it till you mentioned it but I think you are right. By not allowing us a full glimpse at the parents maybe Mr. Whitehead is letting us get a feel for the boys before we can feel pitty for the dysfunction that is their family.
Thank you so much for sharing your insight. I have noticed a few things in this book that didn't really make sense as I was reading, but as I step back and take a look at the story as a whole they become much clearer. This is one of those situations. Had the parents been around the entire summer would we have had the same kinds of attachments to Benji that we have gained from him doing things without having to worry about his parents.
Can you imagine how different a book this would have been if the parents had been around all summer?
03-16-2009 07:32 PM
This family is different and I can relate, growing up with my family. The parents seem like one of the "golden couples" that were paired up and are still together, even though they really don't get along. I'm not sure if this family was ever "right." His father seems overbearing and stubborn, which seems to have ruined everyone. This is sad for the children because they can act just like Benji (or myself), so eager to please, all while trying not get noticed so they can get away. Reggie is working all of the time and his mother tries to get away with her friends as much as she can. I like that Benji is doing things for himself. It is funny to look back at things that you thought were no big deal and see what it really looked like or vice versa, example Benji's hair in his school picture, I like it.