Dysfunctional family relationships form the basis of many Canadian short stories. Often,
tragedy is the end result of severe family breakdown. In other cases, personality defects
are directly traceable to poor family dynamics. In the stories “Hurt”, “Fall of a City”,
and “The Sound of Hollyhocks” there were very profound family problems.
The difficulty in the father/son relationship in “Hurt” reflects a role reversal. Even though
Stevie is only a young boy, he took care of himself and his father. Stevie made his own
meals and when his father was inebriated, he “...went down to the store and got him a
couple bottles of vanilla to sober up on.” (pg. 195) In a family situation a young child
such as Stevie should not have the responsibility of taking care of his parent. Moreover,
even when Stevie’s father was sober, Stevie could do whatever he liked without
consequence. Skip described such a freedom when he said that “Stevie went to school
when he wanted to go...” (pg. 193) This lack of rules or an authority figure demonstrates
the dysfunctionality of this family. Also, Stevie’s father was a violent alcoholic. Skip
observed that somedays Stevie’s father would be “...pounding on the walls with his fists
and swearing and crying all at the same time...” (pg. 195) The parent/child role reversal ,
the lack of structure, discipline, and authority in the home and the violent episodes
demonstrate the degree of dysfunction in this family.
“Fall of a City” depicts the dysfunctional relationship between Teddy and his guardians.
Teddy’s aunt is constantly ordering him around. After asking Teddy what he was doing in
the attic she says very harshly “Well, young man, you better wipe that scowl off your
face and march to the bathroom and get ready for supper.” (pg. 43) His aunt’s coldness
certainly contributes to their imperfect relationship. Furthermore, Teddy has a strained
connection with his uncle because of his uncle’s endless teasing. At the dinner table,
Teddy’s uncle says, “ ‘He’s got his head in the clouds again.’ ” and then his uncle
“laughed mirthlessly.” (pg. 43) His uncle also teases him when Teddy is playing with
paper dolls (pg. 45). This constant harassment causes the difficulties in their relationship.
Finally, neither Teddy’s aunt nor his uncle trust him. Simply because Teddy spends a
considerable amount of time playing in the attic on a rainy day, his aunt asks suspiciously,
“You been into some mischief up there?” (pg. 42) and then she sends her husband to
investigate (pg. 44). This clearly shows that the adults did not trust Teddy and it is
imperative that an emotionally healthy family relationship be based on trust. The...