Should Wizard Hit Mommy?

Should Wizard Hit Mommy? The Function of Framed Narrative in "Should Wizard Hit Mommy?"

The use of frame stories in storytelling is a global and ancient tradition that independently and concurrently developed across many cultures. Frame stories often serve as a way of connecting a large collection of stories, as perhaps most famously in One Thousand and One Nights, wherein Scheherazade ensures her safety in the chamber of a murderous king by telling him stories in bed and keeping him in suspense each night. Modern applications of frame stories take many forms, but often they will integrate ancient and/or folk traditions into their modern imaginings of framed narratives. "Should Wizard Hit Mommy?" engages with folk narratives in the way that Jack seems to draw inspiration from fables and nursery rhymes in his bedtime stories to Claire. His structure incorporates familiar archetypes—the wise owl, the powerful wizard—to formulate very simple man-in-a-hole tales that resolve via deus ex machina when the wizard says some silly incantation and solves whatever problem Roger Creature presents to him.

It is unusual to see a frame narrative in such a short story, but Updike manages with his lean, momentous prose to include both the story of Roger Skunk and the story of Jo, Jack, and Claire in an artfully compressed manner, presenting the tip of the iceberg of their suburban lives, but offering enough detail for the reader to clearly imagine the weighty remainder of the story lurking beneath the surface. Often in frame stories, the contents of both the frame and framed parts of the story each offer additional valences to one another. This is certainly the case in "Should Wizard Hit Mommy?" Updike suggests that Jack pours his own childhood insecurities into the character of Roger Skunk, and even suggests that Roger Skunk's mother, who brazenly demands that Wizard return Roger's natural odor to him, is inspired by Jack's own mother, who may have forced Jack to endure avoidable bullying of his own as a cost of some unspecified family obligation. And just as Jack's life, the frame, has bearings on the framed tale, the framed tale demonstrates how Jack perceives gender roles in the nuclear family, as well as how Jack chooses to simplistically justify how the decisions of adults negatively affect children; Jack's tale seems to take for granted the notion that parents know best, but a few blunt questions from Jo disrupt his neat conclusion. "Should Wizard Hit Mommy" is a frame story that so closely braids the elements of frame and framed that one could not possibly function without the other.