Using Literature to Help Troubled Teenagers Cope with Identity Issues

By Jeffrey S. Kaplan | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
Identity within the Father-
Son Relationship: Robert
Newton Peck's A Day No
Pigs Would Die
Charles R. Duke and Jon L. Winek

INTRODUCTION

Father-son relationships have been the subject of literature from ancient times to the present: Odysseus and his son, Telemachus, in the Odyssey, Hamlet and the ghost of his father in Shakespeare's play, Robert and his father in A Day No Pigs Would Die. Inherent in all of these relationships is the basic struggle of the son seeking to secure the approval of the father figure while also exerting a sense of independence and identity that permits the son to take his own place in the world and chart his own direction. Not surprisingly, these struggles, in literature as well as in life, are fraught with conflicts ranging from physical confrontation to more subtle yet equally powerful psychological dilemmas. Accompanying such struggles are society's expectations about what constitutes manly attributes and what the best ways may be to live out one's role as a male.

The belief that "as the twig is bent, so grows the tree" places tremendous responsibility on the father figure. From the father, the son has to learn the brutal lessons of masculinity while balancing these lessons against the need for emotional security and a sense of place in the world. The latter two are often supplied by the matriarchal side of the family. Being caught between the male and female sides of parenting presents still another challenge to the young male.

Robert Newton Peck's semiautobiographical novel A Day No Pigs

-95-

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