‘Uncles’ by Peter Taylor

Uncles by Peter Taylor, 1947

The magic trick:

Delivering an interesting assessment – and rejection – of gender stereotypes

Maybe not the best Peter Taylor, but still a worthy read. The plot is simple and certainly not a thriller. A boy comes home from college for Christmas. He wants to see the women in his family but instead has to get lunch with his father and uncles. That’s about it.

But we’re not looking for a page-turner here anyway, right? We get a lesson, and it’s an important one. The young man finds that he is now pigeonholed as a man in this world. He misses, as he calls it, everything “clever, gentle, and light” that he now realizes belong to women. It’s an interesting rejection of 1940s gender constraints, and one that still carries some weight all these years later. And that’s quite a trick on Taylor’s part.

The selection:

“If I were that operator,” Uncle Sydney said, “I wouldn’t give you the number at all. You’re a college man now, and I’d make you wait till you got home to talk to your mother.”

To myself, I said, “I know you would! You certainly would!” Actually, I knew that he meant not if he were the operator but if he were my father. And I could see that Father knew it, too, because he changed the subject at once.

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