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Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter By Tom Franklin: A Look At The Effect Of Parental Prejudice

1207 words - 5 pages

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, by Tom Franklin, delivers a pulse-racing, mystery, tinted with prejudice. Prejudice comes from the Latin, praejudicium, meaning, judgment formed in advance of a trial (Young-Bruehl). Franklin recounts the lives of two men in Chabot, Mississippi in 1979, "a small town largely left behind by the 21st century" (Unlikely Friends). Larry Ott and Silas Jones had a secret and intense friendship for a brief time in the eighth grade. Although they have very different home lives, both men experience prejudice from the father figures in their lives. Studies have shown that children exhibit prejudice as early as the age of five and that one these views develop at such an early age is by “observing and imitating people” in their lives like their fathers (Chin 37-38). Franklin uses the story of murder and mystery surrounding these men to show that prejudicial treatment in childhood affects the choices made later in life and by extension, what type of person someone becomes.
Larry Ott becomes a withdrawn, isolated man who avoids people and situations because of the prejudicial treatment at the hands of his father. Larry, plagued in childhood with everything from asthma, to a bout with stuttering, develops a preference to spend his days with a Stephen King novel than outside playing ball. For a boy living in a rural southern town, sports are more of a requirement of manliness than an option. Not only was Larry not a natural athlete but his father, Carl, continuously reminded Larry that he was "mechanically disinclined" (Franklin 39). As the only son of the mechanic, people assumed that Larry should have been born with a wrench in his hand. His father's preconceptions of who he should be and the resulting disappointment his father exhibited began to affect the way Larry thought and acted. Larry is very aware of the way his father feels about him. "He understood that Carl liked most everyone except him" (Franklin 38). Larry's father ignores him most of the time and when Carl does speak to him, the things that he says are hurtful. Carl's prejudice against his son causes him to learn "to keep out of sight for most of the day" (Franklin 40). Larry develops the art of avoidance and a need for acceptance at an early age. These personality traits get Larry into trouble later in life.
Silas Jones, raised by his single mother also experiences prejudice at the hands of the men in his life. At thirteen, Silas and his mother Alice are living with her boyfriend of almost seven years on the south side of Chicago, when circumstances force them to leave. This is the only long-term father figure in Silas' life, and he makes it clear to Silas that if it "were not for his mother ... Silas would be in the street" (Franklin 101). The men his mother dates treat him poorly when they acknowledged him at all. Because of the treatment he receives from his mother’s boyfriends, short term and long term, Silas realizes...

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