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Analysis of Tobias Wolff’s “Powder”



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    In the short story Powder by Tobias Wolff there is an irrefutable relationship that is quite dissimilar. In these two characters of father and son we see a reflection of many modern day “broken home” situations. The standard role of father and son has been reversed in this story. Reversed in a way that real life and many modern day family situations have been replicated.

    In the very first paragraph Wolff says, “He’d had to fight for the privilege of my company, because my mother was still angry with him for sneaking me into a nightclub during his last visit, to see Thelonious Monk.”  This lets us know from the very beginning that his relationship with his father is damaged and broken. Also, the father had gotten him in trouble for going to see a jazz music artist at a nightclub. The dad is very carefree about the role of being a father. Instead of showing his son the right things to do, he takes him to a nightclub and brings him home very late, which makes his mother angry. The father seemed to not care about the feelings of the mother. This is also shown in the next paragraph after he promises to be home for dinner, skiing with the new fresh snow was more important. The son really wants to be home. This dinner seems important to him. He can recall exactly how the table is set for the meal. “The green tablecloth, the plates with the holly pattern, the red candles waiting to be lit.”

    There was tension in the diner now. The son was very upset with the father and didn’t want to talk to him. “I was supposed to say, “Right, doctor,” but I didn’t say anything.” When the trooper turned them away the father had a “weird, old-maidy show of caution”. Wolff uses this to show how the father knew he had messed up and let his son and his wife down. At this point the father makes a decision not to get him out of trouble, but to give his son what he wants. The son wants to be home for Christmas Eve dinner.

    Analysis of Tobias Wolff’s “Powder”. (2018, Jul 05). Retrieved from

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