Father and Son by Bernard McLaverty 'Father and Son' by Bernard McLaverty is a short story which is set in
a time of conflict and culminates in the death of one of the main
characters. Through the author's skilful use of literary techniques,
we know the outcome of this story is inevitably going to be tragic due
to the nature of the characters he presents. The symbolic setting
hints to the reader that conflict is going to be an important theme
and the structure of the piece allows the reader to see the painful
build up to the climactic end.
The conflict is set within the city of Belfast. The setting itself has
the connotation of division and violence and it is clear to the reader
that there is good reason for choosing this setting: the story shows
the effect of a violent society on a family. The sound of 'ambulances
criss-crossing the city' shows that the characters are in the middle
of violence and we are aware that this is likely to spill over into
Within the household itself, the hostility is continued. The lack of
communication between the father and the son is one of the main
reasons for the climatic ending. The house is not described in any
physical detail, we are only aware of the harsh sounds. We hear the 'snap
of the switch' - a harsh alliterative sound symbolic of the
relationship between the father and son. The father's feet 'click',
the 'rattling' of his pills, the newspaper 'crackling like fire' - all
of these highlight the abrasive and hostile environment. These
examples of onomatopoeia and alliteration add to the reader's
awareness that the ending of this story can only be tragic.
The conflict is also seen in the household in the literal and
metaphorical barriers that the are put up in the household. When the
father tries to check on the son, we see 'a heave of bedclothes'. This
represents the gulf between them - a huge wave separating them. The
boy also positions a newspaper between himself and his father as a way
of creating a barrier in response to the father's emotional barriers:
the father is so hurt by the troubled relationship that all of his
attempts at communication come out as accusations and recriminations:
'I had to go and collect you. Like a dog'
The father's emotional needs are blocked by his inability to
communicate effectively and this continues the hostile and aggressive
relationship. The boy can only react in a hostile manner to the
hostility he faces, he creates more barriers:
'He kicks the door closed in my face with his bare foot.'
This is a huge contrast to the relationship that the pair enjoyed in
the past. Both of them reminisce about the past. The...