Should Wizard Hit Mommy?

Should Wizard Hit Mommy? Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Roger Skunk (Allegory)

The framed tale of Roger Skunk in "Should Wizard Hit Mommy?" is an allegory for resisting conformity and not responding to bullies by changing the way one acts, presents, or lives one's life, even if resisting is hard and changing would reduce one's suffering at the hands of bullies. Jack seems to suggest with his story that if people don't like you for who you are, then they aren't worth changing for, because they aren't worth being friends with at all. Updike strongly suggests that the framed allegory is inspired by Jack's own childhood, first writing that in inventing the story, Jack was "remembering certain trials of his own childhood" (345) and later noting that when Jack fervently insists on his chosen ending for the bedtime story, Jo "realized he was defending his own mother to her, or something as odd" (348).

Jack's Old Shirt (Symbol)

When Jack descends the stairs after telling Jo a naptime story, he finds his wife has already begun painting and is "wearing an old shirt of his on top of her maternity smock" (349). This old shirt symbolizes the loss of selfhood that Jack experiences as his family grows in step with his familial obligations. Though he is exhausted by his domestic life, he is bound to his wife and kids, and to distinguish between himself and them becomes more difficult every day.

Living Room as a Cage (Symbol)

To continue on the theme of domestic exhaustion, Updike concludes the story with a description of Jack and Claire's living room as a cage. He writes, "the woodwork, a cage of moldings and rails and baseboards all around them, was half old tan and half new ivory and he felt caught in an ugly middle position, and though he as well felt his wife's presence in the cage with him, he did not want to speak with her, work with her, touch her, anything" (349). Their domestic obligation to paint the living-room, an example of the banal day-to-day of his life, has Jack feeling trapped. And while he recognizes that his wife feels trapped too, the spite he feels toward her prevents him from reaching out to her and commiserating.

The Story of Roger Skunk (Allegory)

The whole naptime story of Roger Skunk, devised by Jack, is an allegory that permeates the entire frame story. Roger Skunk's predicament is an allegory for schoolyard bullying, discrimination, and the worthwhile effort of staying true to one's self. Now, these are the desired thematic takeaways from his story; however, Jack quickly finds his story's morals unraveling when faced with his daughter's blunt line of questions.

Gender Roles in the Creature Family (Allegory)

When Updike lays out the repeated structure of Jack's bedtime stories, he includes the fact that Roger Creature's father is never present for the main action of the story and only arrives during the epilogue, when a train takes him back home from Boston for dinner. This dynamic is analogous to what Jack views as the "ideal" gendered domestic situation.