LITERATURE: A Death in The Family – Perspective

At the end of what evidently appears to be Part 1, we have a chapter again from third person pov, focusing on the child, Rufus.  The scenario is when his mother is pregnant with his brother and we see through his eyes how they handle telling him.  They don’t.  I’m not sure what age he is at this point, but he’s old enough to understand his mother is putting on weight and that everyone acts differently around her.

Everyone seemed either to look at his mothe with ill-concealed curiosity or to be taking special pains not to look anywhere except, rather fixedly and cheerfully, into her eyes.  For now she was swollen up like a vase, and there was a peculiar lethargic lightness in her face and in her voice.  He had  distinct feeling that he should not ask what was happening to her. (p. 83)

Agee give us a view of the situation at the child’s point of view, but not in the language of a child, but indeed with the limitations of experience of one, i.e., "swollen up like a vase," is a likely what a child (of that era anyway) might liken her to in shape.

Interesting aspect of this is that we see so clearly the character of the child’s parents as they interact, and simply by what they are doing in his mother’s insistence not to tell him what’s going on.  He is instead sent away to his grandmother’s just prior to delivery.

Juxtapositioned with this is the boy’s curiosity about Victoria, a colored woman who has been hired back to act as nanny.  His openness and lack of fear to ask her about the color of her skin–having been warned by his mother to say nothing–shows a deeper relationship, one of trust that he does not share with his own mother. 

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