‘My Son The Murderer’ by Bernard Malamud

My Son The Murderer by Bernard Malamud, 1968

The magic trick:

Briefly confusing the reader among the generations of men

This isn’t a difficult story to process. Compared to other Malamud tales, there’s no sign of magic, surrealism, or other subterfuge. But there’s one little mystery in the storytelling. Early in the story, it’s difficult to know who the narrator is – which father, which son? We get the sense that this could be a generational complaint in the family. My dad doesn’t understand me. He’s always watching me. He just doesn’t get it. The result is a neat comparison of the different generations’ traumas and struggles and reactions. And that’s quite a trick on Malamud’s part.

The selection:

He wakes feeling his father is in the hallway, listening. He listens to him sleep and dream. Listening to him get up and fumble for his pants. He won’t put on his shoes. To him not going to the kitchen to eat. Staring with shut eyes in the mirror. Sitting an hour on the toilet. Flipping the pages of a book he can’t read. To his anguish, loneliness. The father stands in the hall. The son hears him listen.

My son the stranger, he won’t tell me anything.

I open the door and see my father in the hall. Why are you standing there, why don’t you go to work?

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