The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963

chapter 11

what is the reader able to understand about grandma sands southern cultural values?

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Now that Grandma Sands and Wilona's relationship is a focus of the narrative, Wilona becomes the child and Grandma Sands becomes the mother, mirroring the mother-child relationship that Wilona has with her own children. This dynamic is particularly interesting for Kenny to watch. Wilona's behavior in the discussion about Mr. Robert is very similar to her own children's behavior when they disagree with her, and Kenny notes that he has never seen his mother get scolded before. Expanding the family to include the grandmother is extremely important, because such expansion shows how familial roles can change based on perspective.

But since readers continue to see things only through the eyes of Kenny, a child -- and since this novel is intended for young readers -- mature considerations such as Grandma Sands's relationship with Mr. Robert are hinted at but never described in detail. Similarly intentional limitations on perspective can be seen earlier in the novel, for instance when Wilona and Daniel secretly talk about their visit to Alabama or Byron's discipline issues. This writing strategy makes sense, since these are not things that would concern Kenny, and since he prefers to focus on matters of greater interest to kids like him. This goes to show, though, that point of view has a considerable effect on which parts of a full story are revealed to readers; since readers can only experience what the narrator experiences, some things are necessarily left out.