Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Critical Analysis of The Stone Boy

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A Critical Analysis of ¡§The Stone Boy¡¨


In the story ¡§The Stone Boy¡¨, by Gina Berriault, a twelve years old young child, Arnold, accidentally killed his brother, Eugie, when they are hunting. The family, a household of rural farmers in an unnamed region, doesn¡¦t know how to react about the accident so that they just blame Arnold and reject him when he turns to his family for support and compassion. A sensitive tale of a family that is torn apart by a tragic accident. There is a lot of revealing evidence that exhibits the Arnold¡¦s true feelings about his family and his brother. The fence, the coldness of his house and body, the gray atmosphere and gray farmhouse and the silence and stillness of the outside, are all components that the author uses to reveal Arnold¡¦s feelings. Arnold¡¦s behavior towards his brother, his brother¡¦s correlative behavior, his parents¡¦ reactions toward him and the way they focus attention on their other children, also disclose a lot about Arnold¡¦s feelings.


It¡¦s quite obvious to reveal Arnold¡¦s feeling towards his brother he admires him. Whether it is when he watches him sleep, regards him admiringly as he takes off his cap, steals wheat just like he did or when he listens to him carefully talk about duck season, it is all about Eugie. Arnold wants to grow up and be his brother, regardless of how his brother feels about him. It seems to me that Arnold is living in his brother¡¦s shadow.


This is supported in the text when it states, ¡§Arnold never tired of watching Eugie offer silent praise unto himself. He wondered, as he sat enthralled, if when he got to be Eugie¡¦s age he would still be undersized and his hair still straight¡¨ (P.15). Through Eugie¡¦s actions and his words he is pushing Arnold out, I can see that he doesn¡¦t let his brother in even though Arnold wants to be closer to his brother. He drags Arnold down when he talks about his legs being too short to catch the dead duck or when he corrects him gruffly that it is not duck season.


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The fence, a barrier that Arnold cannot cross, in the second scene is almost a direct similarity between Arnold and his feelings. Ironically, Arnold gets stuck in the middle of the fence with his rifle ¡§caught on the wire¡¨ while Eugie gets through the fence just fine. The fence is somewhat symbolizes the division between Eugie and Arnold. I think the purpose of the fence is not only to show Arnold¡¦s feelings, but also to show his obstacles and boundaries. He envies Eugie his hair that is curly, his long legs, maybe even his age. He wants him to be more than a brother, wanting him to be his friend. Eugie keeps pushing him away in the same way that Arnold is pushed away from the other side when he gets stuck on the fence. ¡§Eugie had had a way of looking at him, slyly and mockingly and yet confidentially, that had summed up how they both felt about being brothers. Arnold had wanted to be with Eugie more than anyone else¡¨ (P.44). Arnold does not escape this reality of exclusion and no matter what he tries, he is basically stuck at the middle child position he holds.


Although Arnold does not seem to know how to express his envy and anger towards his brother, we can see it from the accident of killing Eugie. The slaying of Eugie symbolizes Arnold¡¦s jealousness and his fury towards his brother. The author tries to make the killing as an accident because Arnold doesn¡¦t know how to express himself. If he does, he would simply kill his brother intentionally but not accidentally. His negative feeling towards his brother can also be seen when the author uses a lot of gray references ironically that foreshadow what is going to happen. Not only is the gray, dreary and sad color, but also the color of ashes, gravestones and bullets. The color of the farmhouse is gray, showing the detached feelings within the farmhouse. These symbols can draw an image of death in the readers¡¦ minds before death even occurs. We can see in the story that ¡§the color of the sky is faintly gray¡¨ (P.15) right before Eugie is killed. This simple color embodies the negative feelings and mood between the brothers.


Since Arnold does not show his own emotions, the author incorporates his feelings within the text. As Arnold walks into the kitchen of his house upon waking up Eugie, the kitchen is very cold, symbolizing how Eugie feels after his brother gets mad at him for waking him up to pick the peas. The author uses the feeling of coldness to describe how awkward and out of place Arnold feels, not only towards his brother but also in his household. After Eugie¡¦s death, when Arnold is out in the field, he feels warmth on his back similar to the warmth in the kitchen once he decides to go back home. He is freed from the cold feeling he experiences when Eugie is not in his presence. He likes this feeling of warmth as if something had been lifted off his chest to make him feel better. Since he is unable to be in touch with his own emotions, the only thing he is aware of is his own body temperature.


No one cares about Arnold¡¦s feelings, never displaying any empathy towards him. This is why he feels no pain or grief when he killed his brother. We see evidence of Arnold doesn¡¦t receive any love or care from his parents when his father ¡§had stared at him in a pale, puzzled way, and it was then he felt his father and others set their cold, turbulent silence against him¡¨(P.16). He feels his father¡¦s eyes glaring at him without sympathy when talking to the sheriff. His father takes control often answering Arnold¡¦s questions for him impeding his chance to speak. This shows his father controls his exhibits in the home as well. He controls his son¡¦s actions and jobs on the farm without regard for his son¡¦s feelings. While alive, Eugie¡¦s uncle is very fond of him because they resemble each other. After Eugie dies, his uncle turns extremely cold towards Arnold. This shows favoritism, once again, picking Eugie over Arnold. The family is not willing to figure out what is troubling their son, instead they just insist that he must be a cruel moron. During dinner the family will not even look at Arnold or talk to him, his mother just covers her eyes so she does not have to see him. When he wants to tell his mother about the true feeling towards the accident of killing his brother, his mother not only tell him to go back to bed in a sharpening voice, but also ironically question him on the afraid of darkness. She said, ¡§Go Back! Is night when u get afraid?¡¨. The author then brings in the silent and still aspects of the scenery. This is how he feels deep down inside because he is unable to talk to his mother about things. Lying in his bed, wondering what to do with himself, everything turns silent. He does not understand that he can impact someone¡¦s life. He cannot understand the power that his hands have, which is why they feel numb when picking the peas after Eugie¡¦s death. His environment in which he lives could care less about his feelings, which gives him no chance to express them properly. When his family finally wants him to denote his feelings, he does not know how to communicate how he really feels about killing his brother. Deep down he feels sorrow because in the end, when he just wants to crawl into bed with his mom and tell her how he really is feeling, he imagines this to be impossible.


The bottom line is that Arnold envies his brother, wants to be like him and wants him as a friend. Eugie pushes him away, his parent push him away and even the act of killing his own brother pushes him further away from his family. Emotionless, Arnold does not know where he fits into the world. The only one he admires, even though he is in his shadow, is gone. Now that his brother is gone, he does not know what to do or where to turn. You can really see the environment this family lives in and Arnold¡¦s feelings through the symbols and imagery the author uses. I think his emotionless attitude towards the killing of his brother is logical and makes sense in the end since that he has lost the ability to demenstrate his feeling because of his family.


A Critical Analysis of The Stone Boy


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