LITERATURE: A Death in the Family – Laying the Framework

Agee appears to reveal his story slowly, lovingly using each word to fit within and enhance his characters and their relationship to each other. There’s a whole chapter that covers an evening that has six year-old Rufus going to see a Charlie Chaplin movie with his father, Jay, and the long walk home.

(…)Rufus felt his father’s hand settle, without groping or clumsiness, on the top of his bare head; it took his forehead and smoothed it, and pushed the hair backward from his forehead, and held the back of his head while Rufus pressed his head backward against the firm hand, and, in reply to that pressure, clasped over his right ear and cheek, over the whole side of the head, and drew Rufus’ head quietly and strongly against the sharp cloth that covered his father’s body, through which Rufus could feel the breathing ribs;  (p. 24)

The two speak little, yet through gesture and proximity, we see that the boy adores his father, the father loves his son.  Later that night, the father is awakened by a phone call that brings news of his own father being ill.

He sighed, and thought of his father as he could first remember him: beak-nosed, handsome, with a great, proud scowl of black mustache.  He had known from away back that his father was sort of useless without ever meaning to be; the amount of burden he left to Jay’s mother used to drive him to fury, even when he was a boy.  And yet he couldn’t get around it: he was so naturally gay and so deeply kind-hearted that you couldn’t help loving him.  (p. 30)

There’s a chain of generations established here, but it’s more. It is a clear-sided box of layers of time that are all seen simultaneously, bonded together by the relationship of father and son, father and son.

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2 Responses to LITERATURE: A Death in the Family – Laying the Framework

  1. creechman says:

    You read a lot, don’t you?

  2. susan says:

    Why yes, yes I do.

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