Should Wizard Hit Mommy?

Should Wizard Hit Mommy? Essay Questions

  1. 1

    Should Wizard hit Mommy?

    At the heart of this titular question is whether or not Roger Skunk's mother is justified in forcing Wizard to return Roger Skunk to his formerly smelly self at the almost definite social cost of his classmates continuing to ostracize him. Jack's fable asks of its audience to prioritize family and the concept of "being one's self" over the desire to be accepted by one's peers. Jo, however, points out, through her childish, ham-fisted interrogation of Jack's story, that perhaps the last thing Roger wants is to smell like a skunk—that perhaps the cost of being his natural self is one that Roger Skunk isn't willing to pay, and what exactly prioritizes his nature over his desire? In other words, what if Roger Skunk's true "self" is the desire to smell like roses rather than like a skunk? Jo's questioning destabilizes Jack's tidy conclusion, and leaves the reader asking this titular question themselves, with no obvious "yes" or "no" answer.

  2. 2

    In what ways does Updike demonstrate that Jo is growing out of the bedtime story tradition?

    Updike demonstrates how Jo is growing, physically, toward the beginning of the story. He writes, "The little girl (not so little; the bumps her feet made under the covers were halfway down the bed, their big double bed that they let her be in for naps and when she was sick)" (344) to show that she's growing into a normal-sized bed. Her growing up is also presented as evidence of the waning efficacy of the bedtime story, as Updike writes that "Jo never fell asleep in naps anymore," rendering the ritual of a pre-nap story "futile" and making the effort to tell a story "especially fatiguing on Saturday" for Jack (344).

    Later on in the story, Updike shows how Jo has grown accustomed to the repetitive structure of Jack's stories, outlined at the beginning of the story. Jo is comfortable with this sequence of events and satisfied with the deus ex machina of Wizard solving Roger Creature's problems. Her comfort with this structure leads to an absentmindedness on her part—she no longer pays what Jack would qualify as adequate attention to his stories. Updike presents as evidence of this that Jo wears the same expression Claire uses to "feign pleasure at cocktail parties" (347). This puts Jo's (unconscious) actions in a very adult context, thus further pushing the narrative that she is growing up.

  3. 3

    How does Updike demonstrate Jack's interpretation of gender roles?

    In the typical structure of Jack's bedtime stories, Mommy Creature stays home while Daddy Creature enters the story only as an appendage, an epilogue, after the climax and resolution have already taken place. Updike describes the formulaic ending as "Roger ... went home to his mother just in time to hear the train whistle that brought his daddy home from Boston" (344). The one detail that explicitly betrays a parallel between Jack's stories and Jack's reality is that he chooses for the Daddy Creature to be returning home from Boston, a small "real" detail in an otherwise totally fantastical landscape. In these stories, the "daddy" figure remains totally removed until dinner is served, and is assumed to be off in the city, making money.

    Updike also demonstrates how Jack expects attentiveness from women. He writes, "Jack didn't like women when they took anything for granted; he liked them apprehensive, hanging on his words" (347). This sentence tells the reader that (A) Jack has certain gendered expectations of how women should pay him respect, and that (B) since his daughter has demonstrated that she is able to feign interest with the same expression as his wife, Jack considers her among the general category of "women"—despite the fact that she is merely four years old.