Updike begins "Should Wizard Hit Mommy?" with a brief overview of why Jack finds himself burned out, his "head empty," after two years of telling bedtime and naptime stories. It seems, too, that Jo has grown so used to the regular structure of Jack's stories that nothing surprises her about them anymore; she feels like she knows exactly what to expect. Jo is growing out of naps, and perhaps she's growing out of these stories, too. But despite obvious evidence of this out-growing, Jack continues through his apparent fatigue to tell these stories. And then, when Jo seems uninterested in hearing them, Jack is the one who feels wounded. His delicate pride seems, as the story goes on, to need the stories as a way for him to be appreciated by an audience, even if that audience is one four-year-old. So, in the end, despite the fact that Jack feels exhausted by the continued obligation to tell the stories, it is he who needs them more than Jo.
Gender Roles (Situational Irony)
Jack establishes his stance on traditional gender roles. In his ideal magical creature world, Mommy Creature stays home while Daddy Creature spends his days working in Boston and only returns home in the evenings, just in time for dinner. Since the frame narrative of Jack and Claire's life takes place on a Saturday afternoon, the reader can safely assume that Jack is basing the Creature family dynamic on his own family (and also his own family's dynamic when he was a boy), and that Jack would not be home on a weekday afternoon, but rather in Boston, working. But on this particular afternoon, Jack knows that while he is telling this naptime story, he is avoiding his obligation to help his pregnant wife paint the living room. Jack clearly doesn't want to paint or move furniture around, despite his clear espousal of traditional gender roles in which "the man of the house" would take the lead in handiwork and manual labor. So, by telling the story, Jack in a way avoids fulfilling the very gendered roles he perpetuates in the story.
Re-Skunking (Situational Irony)
Over two years, Jack establishes a strict formula for how his bed-/naptime stories go. They are always resolved with the deus ex machina magic of Wizard. This particular afternoon, Jack disrupts that formula, leading to unforeseen, unexpected circumstances. The irony of his effort to teach a substantive lesson to his daughter, Jo, by having Mommy Skunk force Wizard to reverse his spell is that Jo interrogates the basis of this conclusion to the point where Jack (and by extension, the reader) is forced to question the moral of his own story.
Should Wizard Hit Mommy? Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Should Wizard Hit Mommy? is a great
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