Reading Response #8 (due Nov. 7)

Read until page 70 (chapter 16) of Ham on Rye, and respond to the prompt below in a 200-250 word response. Write your response as a structured paragraph. Integrate at least two citations from the novel to help illustrate your points.

  • What kind of world is Henry growing up in? What stands out to you about the characters that populate his life: his parents, his schoolmates, other characters he meets, etc.? What kinds of lessons is he learning? How might these lessons be affecting his attitude toward life and other people?

To respond, click on “leave a comment” (written below). You’ll have to sign in with your WordPress account (or enter your email address and your name). Write your response. Please write your full name at the bottom of your response so I can identify you. Click on “post comment.” Copy and paste your response onto a Word document and save a copy for yourself, just in case. You don’t need to print it and bring it to class.

While I encourage you to read and be inspired by each other’s responses, each response must be completed individually. Feel free to quote each other, if you like. If you do, just make sure you give credit to the original author. If your post is too similar to any posts above yours, I’ll assume you copied it/them.

The responses are always due before class on the due date. You must attend class in order to be eligible for a grade on your response.

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32 thoughts on “Reading Response #8 (due Nov. 7)

  1. Henry appears to be growing up in a life of disappointment, loneliness and agony. When it comes to his parents we can see that they are the utmost strict, ignorant and insane people you could ever meet. They act as if they are royalty although they are among the poor side. If one thing goes wrong, then Henry must suffer by being beaten in a gruesome manner. Taking all this pain and strict rules from a man who cannot even be faithful to his own wife, how is his son supposed to respect him with a father figure like that. The mother is no better just sitting by observing and overall cheering on the father for his coward ways of taking his anger out on the most vulnerable. His school mates are a spitting image of his father, always trying to appear tough but only ever dominating those who are weakest. Then there are the few friendships he happens to make, such as Red and David. Both these young boys appear to have a disability of sorts, whether it be the loss of an arm or being cross eyed, they are perceived as outcasts. Henry is an outcast as well and therefore it is only natural to stick with those you know. Taking into consideration Henry’s life and those in it, he appears to be taught that he is not worth much and is better off alone. In regards to his family they only ever show him attention when it comes to needing him for their own selfish needs or to beat the poor child. Their motto also happens to be “Children are meant to be seen, not heard” (16). This lesson is just validating that Henry is alone with no where to go. The few friends he happens to make always wind up disappearing and leaving him to be alone once more. This all impacts Henry’s way of thinking about life and people because he has never been shown kindness. All this child has been shown is pain and neglect, the lack to fit in and overall disappointment in any chances he possibly must have a chance at life. It is therefore quite understandable how coming from a life like this that it is almost impossible to see any positive aspects to life when all you have learned is everyone will leave you, you are different, you are unwanted, you are an outcast.

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  2. Henry grows up in a world of violence, isolation and pain. This is caused mostly because of his parents. They never showed love or care towards him. His father was always angry, vulgar and violent. When his father was abusive, his mother did nothing about it: ” ‘It wasn’t right’, I told her. ‘ Why didn’t you help me?’ ‘The father,’ she said, ‘is always right'” (39). Anything he did seemed to always be wrong. Everyone around him made him feel unwanted.Therefore, he did not socialize very much because his parents trained him to be that way. Around others, he tried to remain invisible but he was an easy target for the bullies for he did not quite fit in with everyone else. The violence in his childhood might affect him into being filled with anger and hatred toward life and people. He has suffered so much and only knew pain which causes him not know how to love. He probably does not believe in it, therefore the only kind of affection he learns to have is the sexual kind. He isn’t very well educated on it, so he slowly starts discovering about it ever since he met Lila Jane. She was his neighbour that would show him her different underwears and would eventually share a kiss with him. After finally learning “where do babies come from”, Henry started to be curious about girls and was developping his desires as a boy: ” This thing about fucking is nice. It gave people extra things to think about” (56). Not knowing love, he will possibly only see his sexual desires when it comes to women which is one of the only things that brings pleasure to his life at the moment.

    Jem Bajala-Tuazon

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  3. In the novel “Ham On Rye” written by Charles Bukowski, the main character Henry grows up in a very dark world. The predominant theme of violence is clearly shown by the vulgarity in the narration among the different characters. A good example is seen when Henry’s father visits the people he delivers milk to : “ HOW THE HELL DO YOU THINK I’M GOING TO EAT? YOU’VE SUCKED UP THE MILK, NOW IT’S TIME FOR YOU TO SHIT OUT THE MONEY!” ( Bukowski 51) His aggressive responds illustrates the environment that the young boy lives in— surrounded by poor and uneducated. At first, I thought that Henry’s father behavior absurdly funny since he was grumpy about any to everything but as I got along, the bitterness in the young boy’s life felt almost unbearable to read. The absence of any sorts of affection given by both parents towards him really shocked me. It felt like the birth of Henry wasn’t really wanted.( really strange. Not sure how to formulate it) One of the things that stood out was that most of the kids or people he would encounter were special in some way like David and Red. Thus, the young kids reminded me of a movie I recently saw called “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” (that was unfortunately very badly adapted into a movie). Furthermore, Henry’s thoughts illustrate the pessimistic outlook in his life. He is also disliked by the other boys at school thus making him a loner again. Throughout the few pages, it can be seen that the little boy learns to be “tough” by hidding his emotions

    Amanda Ging Sze Chan

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  4. Bukowski appears to be growing up in a mix between an adult world and a child’s world. While he isn’t mature enough to understand the workings of the real world, he is growing up without the typical sense of happiness commonly associated with that of a young child, whether it be at home or at school. His treatment from both his parents and his peers have led him to dissociate himself from the rest of his life, except for with David, the only other individual he appears to feel a connection with. As he grows up in this unforgiving community, Charles learns to accept the cruelty of the world, a sentiment he expresses when he listens to David play the violin after getting abused: “I sat and listened for some time but the music didn’t get any better. The shit had hardened inside of me. I no longer felt like shifting. The afternoon light hurt my eyes. I felt like vomiting. I got up and walked home” (Bukowski 31). Charles learns to mature due to his upbringing, as he is forced to grow independent of his parents to escape his fathers abuse and his classmates bullying. Despite this, he still shows vulnerability as when he states: “I felt that even the sun belonged to my father, that I had no right to it because it was shining upon my father’s house. I was like his roses, something that belonged to him and not to me . . .” (40). It becomes easy to forget that Charles is still very young, as he displays a great deal of wisdom compared to other kids his age, but it is evident that while he may have grown to deal with the trials he faces in life, he is still a victim of its many problems.

    Jerry Huang

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  5. Henry is growing up in a lonely and abusive world. A big part of the reason for this is his parents, especially his father. We get to know Henry dad’s character by the beginning of the book when he says, “children should be seen and not heard” (Bukowski 17), already you can tell his attitude toward children and how he will treat his son throughout the novel. Henry starts to despise his father because he is always angry and beats him for rather ridiculous reasons. Henry’s mother on the other hand just stands there and accepts whatever Henry’s father says or does towards their son “it wasn’t right, {Henry} told her…..is always right”( Bukowski 39). His father also forbids Henry from playing with the other kids from the neighbourhood which leads Henry to be an outcast when he goes back to school. The kids bully him, he is always the last pick when they make teams, they tell him what sports to play etc. Henry is in a miserable environment but is learning some life lessons. Henry is learning on how to be independent he is getting used to being alone and not expecting much from other people, Henry becomes fond of a boy in his neighbourhood named Red but, Red ends up moving away and it doesn’t really bother Henry this is due to the fact that Henry accepts being alone. Through his father’s abuse Henry develops a hatred for many things just like his father. By living with an abusive and angry person, you obviously pick up traits from that person and I find Henry does adopt some of his father’s hatred but is still manageable so far in the novel.

    Anthony Sciola

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  6. Living in a world devoid of love and filled with daily occurrences of violence, Henry is stuck in a nightmarish reality. His father is a disturbingly angry and cruel man. As a result, instead of admiring his parents like most children, Henry begins to hate him: “I had begun to dislike my father. He was always angry about something.” (Bukowski 26) As the story progresses this hatred turns to shock: “He [Henry’s father] was just unbelievable, I just wanted to get away from him” (70). His mother wasn’t strong willed enough to care for her child and was abused herself, which in return left the young boy in a very lonely and sad state. When his father hit him his mother’s response was that “the father (…) is always right” (39). The other adult characters in the book are also very frightening and angry like the school principal, the fat lady in the pool and the man with the orange trees. The weaker or poorer characters seem to suffer the most while the mean and strong ones seemed to get their way. That taught Henry that the only way to get through life was to be tough and to deal with his problems one his own.

    Neta Fudim

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  7. Henry is the main character in Charles Bukowski’s novel Ham on Rye which relates his childhood, school years and early adulthood. Henry grows in a violent environment, and unsafe for a child. His father is a very authoritarian one and beats him for no reason, while his mother is neglecting him and does not even try to protect him from his father as she is a victim as well. Henry has not right to vocalize his desires and stand for himself as:”Children should not be seen and not heard” (17). Henry lives a life of loneliness and lack of love and affection, as he even is not allowed to interact with children from his neighborhood:”I was not allowed to play with other children” (27). The fact the he is missing communication, and the children often ignore him, made him believe that he does not need people and feels better alone: ”I didn’t have any friends at school, didn’t want any. I felt better being alone” (29). Nevertheless, he tried to make friends, and spend time with children of his age, but when is the time to play with them his father makes him mow the lawn: ”you’re old enough to mow the lawn now” (66). The fact that his parents forbid him to communicate with other children may impact the way he will interact with people in the future. Henry might feel isolated and not understood by others, and accordingly ignore them and live a lonely life. Moreover, he might have trust issues, and difficulties in building long-lasting relationships. We readers, can already see that, he prefers loneliness rather that communication, and even if he manages to make a friend, the friendship does not last.

    Marcela S.

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  8. In this novel, the main characters Henry is being rasied in a brutal world. Let’s begin with his home life . Henry begins to hate his Father because” he was always angry about something.”(pg26) Henry’s life at home seems to he filled with sadness and abuse which also appears in his school. His friends at school seem to influence him just as much as his father does. When a boy goes up to Henry and begins to talk about how babies are born, Henry takes it to another level by saying”..let’s fuck!”(56), to their teacher. Now we see that he doesn’t know what is appropriate and what isn’t. He should have learnt this at home, but since his father isn’t a good influence and finds that ” children should be seen and not heard,”(17) we realize that Henry must learn everything on his own. His entire childhood seems to be a disappointment, and when it begins to look a little better his father ruins it for him. When Henry is playing football in the streets with his friends, his father catches him and tells him he has to mow the lawn.(66) He is quickly learning that he must figure his life out on his own.
    Siobhan McDonagh

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  9. Henry is growing up in a rather cruel world. The characters that populate his life are making him miserable. First off, he has a family that doesn’t really care for him. His father abuses him, and he also abuses his mother. On top of that, his mother (Katherine) doesn’t even try to interfere or to prevent him from getting beaten up. When little Henry asked his mother, “Why didn’t you help me?”, her response was “The father […] is always right” (Bukowski, 39). “[…] [Henry] thought [that] these people are not [his] parents, they must have adopted [him] and now they are unhappy with what [he has] become” (42). Not only Henry has to endure mistreatment from his parents, but he also has to witness them arguing all the time. “There was trouble at the house, much fighting between my mother and my father, and as a consequence, they kind of forgot about me” (66). Moreover, his relationship with his parents has also affected the way he sees other people around him, too. Henry doesn’t have many friends, and he seems like he’s an outcast. “I didn’t have any friends at school, didn’t want any. I felt better being alone” (29). It’s almost like he prefers to be isolated than to be hurt by someone maybe because he doesn’t trust people anymore. He’s always trying to act like he’s a tough guy. I think he’s also learned to hide his pain, and to be independent, as in not to rely on anyone besides himself. In other words, he’s turning into a ‘lone wolf’. Since Henry’s constantly surrounded by people who hurt him, I don’t think he knows what love is, because no one, not even his family, has showed him any affection.

    Claudia Keurdjekian

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  10. The 1930’s were a very different time, specific things such as beatings, poverty and general tough love were accepted as the norm. In the novel Henry experiences all of these things, it shapes how he grows up just as every child is shaped by how s/he is brought up. Henry’s father is tough, distant and in many ways cruel. He is not an exception in the story even if it seems to be presented that way. All children at the time were brought up as tough kids, “At Desley we had a code. We never made a sound. Even sissies took their beatings silently.” (46) To survive in the world Henry is brought up in he must become tough, resilient, silent. Whether or not he was brought up in an unsafe environment is not important, he lived through it, he survived, he adapted. The other children Henry meets are tough too, they expect others to be tough, it isn’t an option but a necessity for Henry to mature quickly. Henry matures because of hi father primarily but the time period does have a great impact as well. In grammar school his father already expects him to hold his own, do his share, “you’re old enough to mow the lawn now. You’re big enough to mow it, edge it, water it and water the flowers. It’s time you did something around here.” (67) From an early age Henry is shown what society expects from every member, contribution, work.

    Thomas Leclaire

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  11. The world Henry lives in is a cruel and unforgiving one. It seems, to us and to Henry, like it is a world without justice. An example of this is when he is playing football with his friends and his father forces him to mow the lawn; “Its time you did something around here. Its time you got off your dead ass!” but I’m playing football with the guys. Saturday is the only real chance I have.” “Are you talking back to me?” “No.” (67). We can see that Henry was never given the opportunity to have a real childhood. He was introduced to a hardened world encrusted by an even harder reality. He always got beatings from his father and had even heard his mother getting beaten. He also observed his father’s shameless personality, found out his father had an affair, he watched countless fights in and out of school. We can see all these events take a toll on his personality and slowly becoming “hardened” and accustomed to this world around him. “I sat and listened for some time but the music didn’t get any better. The shit had hardened inside of me.” (31). In becoming habituated to this cold world, Henry is less sympathetic towards others and will start to believe that there is no good in the world anymore.

    Steven Colalillo

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  12. Henry lives in a world where he does not quite belong; cannot find his place. He is surrounded by people that do not love him, from the members of his family to his schoolmates. His father beats him and his mother watches it all, he isn’t allowed to see many of his family members, especially if he likes them. He is bullied at school by other kids and only gets along with others that feel like he does, lonely and avoided. A life like this, especially for a child this young, brings an education that is unlike the one most kids have these days. He is told from the start that other children are ‘bad’ and the he is to stay away from them. This leaves Henry all alone in a world of adults, where again he has no place. He is taught that violence will correct any wrong, that it is an acceptable form of punishment. He does not have a say in this and the witnesses around him do nothing to stop it; “The father, […] is always right” (Bukowski 39) is his mother’s excuse. He is therefore taught that the man in the house is always right, that the way his father acts is what is to be expected. All of this violence that surrounds him has also taught Henry that being tough, that beating everyone else is a good thing; something admirable. He speaks proudly of the fact that as kids that have nothing, they are still feared by those that have a lot more, “We were the children in the poorest school, we had the poorest, least educated parents, most of us lived on terrible food, and yet boy for boy we were much bigger than the boys from other grammar schools around the city. Our school was famous. We were feared.” (Bukowski 48). These lessons have made Henry very guarded, have left him alone and unable to socialize properly. He sees everyone around him as bad; has no one to really relate to or look up to.

    Charlotte Lapointe

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  13. The world the Henry seems to be growing up in is a world that is not in his favour, where everything he does retaliates against him. He witnesses fights at school, as a way for boys to mark their territory, so as Henry learns to stand up for himself by beating up the kid who shot a football at him, not to be known as a “sissy,” his odds are not in his favour (32). “I hit him behind his left ear […] He fell to the ground,” as Henry narrates what he thought is normal, as he sees fights every day with the tough kids who never get caught (35). However as Henry is always in bad luck, Stanley rattles him to Mr. Hall. This event marks the beginning of Henry’s “many such beatings which would recur more and more often” from his father (39). What Henry thinks what he’s doing is normal or does no wrong, as he gives up Saturday afternoon football to mow the lawn for his father, he still gets a beating:
    “See them?” he asked her. “Two hairs. See them?”
    “Yes, Daddy, I see them…”
    They both got up. My mother walked into the house. My father looked at me. “Inside…” (69).
    Not even his mother, both his parents are teaching Henry that life is a miserable thing, and nothing Henry can do to make things right, because he’s learning that life is about following rules and accepting the consequences even when he doesn’t understand. I think the reason his father is making his son’s life even more miserable is because he’s jealous of his own son’s luxury. He doesn’t want his son to grow up in a better life than he did, since he must have had a hard childhood, due to his dad, Henry’s grandfather, being an alcoholic, and now both his brothers are too.

    Julia Graziani

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  14. Henry is a very unfortunate young kid. He may be tough but he is not treated right by his parents. Henry is growing up into a world where his parents do not treat or talk to him in a kid like manor which leads Henry to act the way he does. Henry is very aggressive with the other kids at school or even in his neighborhood. This is all because of what happens at home: “We went inside and my father locked me in the bedroom and my mother and father began arguing. Then my father began beating my mother” (Bukowski 52). This is just one incident showing violence within the family because later on almost on a daily basis, Henry’s dad spanks Henry. All this aggressiveness from his dad and this anger within each other get passed on to Henry at school and with other kids which leads him to fight and be ok with it: “… I caught a fist on the temple…” (Bukowski 62). We see here just one fight Henry got into with a bunch of kids only because he didn’t want to give his football. The lessons that he is learning might be painful but might help in the long run because he will be ready for the real world and know how to defend himself: “It’s time you did something around here. Its time you got off your dead ass!” but I’m playing football with the guys. Saturday is the only real chance I have.” “Are you talking back to me?” “No.” (Bukowski 67). Here shows his dad being strict and angry towards Henry not letting him have any fun on his time off from school which isn’t right but this could go in a positive way ion the long run or a negative way in the short run by really hurting a kid.

    Alex Vincelli

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  15. Henry is living in an extremely unhealthy and abusive environment. From the very beginning, we see his father’s perception of him when Henry states that, “My father didn’t like people. My father didn’t like me. ‘Children should be seen and not heard’”. (16). At a very young age, Henry is aware of his father’s feelings towards him, and this can affect his youth in an extremely negative way. Henry’s parents are ignorant and uneducated and this is portrayed throughout this entire section. He is exposed to beatings several times. For instance, when his mother finds out that his father is cheating on her, Henry states, “My father began beating my mother. She screamed and he kept beating her.” (53). Not only witnessing but experiencing this abuse is something that no one should be put through. In addition to this, Henry is continuously deprived from interactions with other children. He states that “[His] father always ran the neighborhood kids away from the house. [He] was told not to play with them but [he] walked down the street and watched them anyhow.” (60). Because of this, Henry feels uncomfortable and cannot interact with other children easily. We continue to see his struggle with his parents when he states, “There was trouble at the house, much fighting between my mother and my father, and as a consequence, they kind of forgot about me.” (66). He lacks attention and especially love, yet his parents are completely unbothered by what they are putting him through. Lastly, we see some of the lessons his father teaches him, when his father says, “And don’t look so god-damned unhappy or I’ll really give you something to be unhappy about!” (67). This type of threat is shocking to hear from a father figure, and this will certainly play a role in who Henry will turn out to be in the future

    Sara Vetere

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  16. Reading about Bukowski’s painful childhood took me right back to my developmental psychology class, where we discussed the Puritan concept of “original sin” that prevailed in the sixteenth century. The widespread belief during this time was that children are innately evil and can only be made “good” through physical and mental punishment. This is precisely the reality Bukowski grew up in; children were objectified by adults and made to feel guilty about issues beyond their control. He makes this apparent when he comments, “I felt that even the sun belonged to my father, that I had no right to it because it was shining on my father’s house. I was like his roses, something that belonged to him and not to me…” (40). From early on, he felt as though he was not an individual made to ever be respected or taken seriously. This is undoubtedly a deplorable parenting style and is worsened by the fact that the Bukowski’s never let their son interact with children of his age. He essentially grows up in a bubble of normalized abuse and misery, and only gets a glimpse of other realities when he attends school for the first time: “The first children of my age that I knew were in kindergarten. They seemed very strange, they laughed and talked and seemed happy. I didn’t like them” (27).
    Bukowski’s inherited pessimistic outlook on the world renders him unable to relate to others on a level other than abuse. David, an innocent and lonely boy, shows warmth with his friendship, and yet Bukowski reiterates that he doesn’t like him. I think that a turning point in this friendship does occur when the two boys walk home together, and he hears David being reprimanded by his mother for destroying his clothes: “I heard her beating him. David began to cry and she beat him harder” (31). This scene truly showcases the callous behavior that occurred behind the scenes. Parents used their children as an outlet to release their angers and frustrations, thereby projecting the same violent tendencies onto their defenseless and impressionable kids. With the limited knowledge I have of Bukowski’s adult personality, it seems quite evident that he was a product of his environment.

    by Vanessa Correia

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  17. In Ham on Rye, Henry is living in a patrimonial society and in a world where rich kids get bullied often at school. Not to mention that a lot of man are found to be drunk. Henry’s parents truly are messed up people, his father is an abusive man and her mother, a submissive and ignorant woman, they also act rich while they are not. Henry doesn’t like them much. The protagonist is learning that being poor is labeled as being accepted in his school, and rich, being bullied: “Most of our parents were too poor to by us [an umbrella or a raincoat] … Anybody seen carrying an umbrella or wearing a raincoat was considered a sissy. They were beaten after school.”(32) , that child and women ought to be beaten by man for whatever reason and that sex and alcohol are acceptable. Henry is well aware of his environment, he makes his own decisions except around his father and he also does not like to give satisfaction to others while he is being harmed such as when he gets beaten by his father, he tries not to scream from pain because that is what his father desires, that henry screams. (39) He learns about sex from someone at school and he is having thoughts about it such as when he was with his teacher alone, he said, “let’s fuck!” (56)

    Hersi Nur

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  18. Henry is growing up in a dark and abusive world. He lives in a broken home, “I stood in the backyard and listened to the screaming and the beating. Then the beating and the screaming stopped and all I could hear was my mother sobbing. She sobbed a long time.” (53) Listening to your mother beaten senseless can have a great impact on a child. He and his mother fear his father, his mother says “’The father’ she said, ‘is always right’” (39). Henry is also an outcast when it comes to socializing with kids his age, again this problem is mainly because of his parents, “My father always ran the neighborhood kids away from our house. I was told not to play with them” (60). His father thinks that he and his family are too good for the other families in the neighborhood. His father also beats him senseless for the smallest reasons possible, like not getting all of the weeds out of the grass when he mowed it, he started accepting that he was going to get a beating every Saturday. Henry finds a friend who also has abusive parents, he felt his sob for a bit after his friend got a beating, “I sat and listened for some time but the music didn’t get any better. The shit had hardened inside of me. I no longer felt like shifting. The afternoon light hurt my eyes. I felt like vomiting. I got up and walked home” (31). Henry learns that the world is not sun shine and rainbows, it will beat you if you let it.

    Giuseppe Galo

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  19. To start off, I find this book a bit disturbing. It’s really sad seeing in what condition Henry is growing up. Everything seems so weird. The parents are so ridiculous. An aspect of the book that I found shocking is how Katherine, Henry’s mother, calls her husband “Daddy” and the father calls his wife ” Mama”: ” MAMA! MAMA!” He ran into the house. (69). Both of the parents are described in a childish way. I could not imagine having parents that have this kind of behavior. It’s like Henry is being raised by children instead of mature adults. Further, there is so much violence in this book. Henry is being beaten for ridiculous reasons. It makes me feel so dreadful. Henry is bullied at school because of the friends that he walks with. However, I don’t find this really interesting. The most striking part of the novel is the characterization of the parents.Henry’s parents, especially his father, have such a cold heart: “It was if my father was a machine” (70). He has no emotion and feels that he is on the top of this world. Henry was always isolated because of his parent’s ideology : “I was told not to play with them” (60). Henry says, ” All a guy needed was a chance” (62). However, he has no chance in this world. He is an outcast of the society. He is only a child and according to his father ” Children should be seen and not heard” (16). He has no place in this world and therefore, I believe that all this would affect him in the future. He never had someone to love. Therefore, I believe that Henry would fall in the same path of his father and be as violent as him.

    Ilyas Mohamed

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  20. In my opinion, Henry is growing up in a weird world. Because his family is imagining that they are rich but in reality they are not. His father in special has a big influence on him. First of all, his father forbid Henry to talk and say anything when they are together or even when they are somewhere. He (father) is always saying “Children should be seen and not heard” (16). Henry knows that if he will scream or say something this will make his dad angry and Henry doesn’t want this. His attitude toward life could be so much different than others because he could think that no one is happy to hear him and this can make him close himself from the world. “My father always ran the neighbourhood kids away from our house. I was told not to play with them but I walked from our house and watched them anyhow” (60). This shows us that he was also isolated from the outside world. But anyway he met with different kids that were his friends for a short period of time. A problem for Henry is that he can learn a bad lesson from his childhood. That he should be all his life alone and he shouldn’t talk to anybody that she just needs to be by himself.

    Karyna Statko

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  21. Henry, a young boy who enjoys playing baseball and football but “was not allowed to play with other children” (27), seems to be living in a world of anguish and isolation. From his father, Henry gets beatings while from his mother, he gets no help (39-40). From his schoolmates and neighbors, Henry takes physical and verbal intimidation (33-34 and 60-62). From his teacher, Mr. Hall, and from his school principal, Mr. Knox, he finds unpleasant treatment—they would scream at him, drag him by the ear and tightly squeeze his hand (35-37). These people, who are supposed to love and provide a sense of belonging to our protagonist, appear to be inflicting nothing but pain and sorrow in him instead. His parents are neglecting his need for affection and having friends while his school staff are neglecting his need to be heard. Although we might see that he is a wise and strong young boy, withstanding his father’s harsh beating and taking his stand when the bullies attempt to get to him, it is highly likely that he will give back the same pain and violence to the people whom he will have an influence on in the future since this is what he is being fed.

    Mikaela Cuaycong

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  22. Henry is growing up in a horrible world where there is nothing he feels happy about. His parents fight, his father beats him and his mother, his mother does not fight back, Henry is bullied at school, etc. Everything is unfavorable to Henry. I think his classmates stands out the most because Henry cares about what they think of him. Henry does not care about how his parents see him, he already gave up on their love as he said “I don’t need that stuff” (Bukowski chapter 13 ). He is still in grammar school, as a young child, yet he is able to utter such powerful words, meaning that he indeed did not felt the need to receive love from his parents. While he wants to be accepted by his classmates, he learns bad things from them. Bad things such as bullying and fighting. The worst, it is that these boys all think that in order to be tough, one must “take their beatings silently” (ch. 10), even the weak sissies. I think his classmates influence on him is horrifyingly negative. He neglects some basic ethics humans should possess. Overall, I am horrified by the environment in which Henry is growing up and I think there is a hint of foreshadow indicating that Henry might become depressed since nothing goes well in his life.

    Lissom Huang
    ( I hope it is alright if I only cited the chapters in which my quotes are from. I did not had the book with me, thus I found a digital version of it, but the pages were not stated, only the chapters. )

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  23. By reading these beginning chapters, i can’t help but feel sorry for Henry, much like i did for Anna in the previous book we read. Henry’s childhood can be described as dark, violent and certainly not the way a normal childhood should be. He lives with an abusive father who thinks that “children should be seen and not heard” (17). This particular phrase leads me to believe that Bukowski’s father doesn’t believe in children’s opinion and emotions for that matter because they’re not valuable people yet, they’re just children. Henry’s mom fits the exact description of a powerless wife who sticks by her husband no matter how wrong she believes he is and i feel like Bukowski might have been affected by this because the only person that could’ve ever saved him from his ruthless father decides to look the other way. While his parents are too busy fighting or while his father is too busy beating him based on unnecessary reasons, they’re lacking to teach their child how to behave and have manors. This leads Henry to say things like “Let’s fuck” (56) to his teacher while thinking it’s appropriate and that there’s nothing wrong with it. He’s completely powerless and because of the way he’s being raised i believe it will affect the way he grows as a person, and become an outcast.

    Konstantina Vanikiotis

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  24. From his childhood to his teenage years, Henry is living and exposed to a toxic environment. The protagonist is in fact growing in a world where violence is used as a tool to educate or express someone’s feelings. Indeed, his father used to spank or punished physically his son when he was not satisfied of his “ burdensome” son that can not execute properly tasks. For example, when Henry Chinaski saw his son play football with his friends during Sunday, he imposed to Henry Junior to mow the lawn without forgetting ONE single hair, otherwise he will get angry, punish him for his botched job under the helpless gaze of his mother and even insult him : “YOU SON OF A BITCH”(68). Here, it shows how much Henry’s father disrespect his son and even his wife by screaming insulting words. Furthermore, while Henry’s father was torturing him with a razor strop, he felt helpless, powerless and a victim of his father aggressive insanity: “The whole world was out there indifferent to it all, but that didn’t help(…)There was the feeling of being like in a tomb(…)I just wanted to get away from him. I couldn’t cry. I was too sick to cry, too confused”(70).Unfortunately, Henry feels a certain injustice when his harsh and tough father is physically abusing him. He clearly knows that it is not normal to punish a child with this manner even though he was raised that way. The metaphor used by the author illustrates very well Henry’s life , he is trapped in a violent environment where the only way to escape a misogynist and abusive father is to get away from him. Furthermore, Henry’s character is greatly influenced by the environment he is living, his abusive and cheater father has mistreated his vulnerable wife and forbid his [son ] to play with other children (27). His authoritarian and violent father is trying to control his son’s life and is in a way destroying the beauty and innocence of a child which is slowly transforming a naïve child into an aggressive father like machine.

    Leila Bencherif

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  25. Throughout the first pages of this novel, we can really feel how Henry is growing up isolated and very lonely. His life is depicted as being very painful and we can see this by the description of his parents’ behaviour and how they treat him. He basically grows up in a world of suffering and is tormented by his father’s violence and abuse towards him and his mother’s choice of ignorance and overlooking these incidents: “‘It wasn’t right’, I told her. ‘Why didn’t you help me?’ ‘The father,’ she said, ‘is always right’” (39). As mentioned previously, he grows up in a world where he is taught to be isolated and to stay away from people and being sociable; the violence he encounters in his everyday life helps with the process of cutting himself away from society. His father was particularly horrible to him and he beats him without needing a reason to. We can feel that his father is a very angry and miserable man that takes out his despair and rage onto his boy, Henry. “He [Henry’s father] was just unbelievable, I just wanted to get away from him” (70), this passage really shows us how Henry cannot take more of his father’s cruelty and wishes to get away from him, which basically means to get away from the source of all his misery. The poor boy has to go through all this abuse by himself, given that his mother seems to neglect him horribly. He seems to get an idea, through everybody in his surrounding apparently, that in order to get through life accordingly and get your way you need to be tough and cruel, that is why he deals with his difficulties in such way.

    Savana Di Quinzio

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  26. Henry is growing up in a world where he struggles to fit in. He has a difficult time connecting with his classmates who tease him and make his days at school just as difficult as his time at home. He’s growing up with two parents that abuse him and rob him of his potential. His father is very strict and physically causes him harm by slashing him with a razor strop daily for any reason to ‘teach’ Henry the harsh reality of the real world. He resents his mother for not protecting and defending him from his father, as a mother should; “why didn’t you help me? The father, is always right’” (39). Questioning their parenting style, but still continues to obey by their rules. His lifestyle at home has greatly impacted his social behaviors. The lack of affection at home has influenced his ability to project his emotions, resulting in his relationships with women to be strictly sexual; “This thing about fucking is nice. It gave people extra things to think about” (56). Henry is reviewing his past because of his developing depression. As a student studying psychology, I’ve learnt that people suffering from depression tend to live through their memories of the past, contrarily to those suffering from anxiety disorders who stress about what the future has to offer.

    Chelsea Silva-Martin

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  27. Henry is growing up in a very abusive and competitive environment. You see from his perception of the world and the people in them that he doesn’t have the mentality of a safe and adjusted child. In his world he has a warped sense of himself, sexuality and human relationships. He is not surrounded by the best of people, especially his father that has a deep influence in his thoughts. The abuse he endures from the razor strap make him loath his life with his father, but after he lives through it he sees that beauty in his surroundings when he survives through the trauma. “The walls were beautiful, the bathtub was beautiful, the wash basin and the shower curtain was beautiful, and even the toilet was beautiful. My father was gone.” (70)
    It is interesting to read this because it shows how Henry learns to see the beauty in things because he had lived through the horrifyingly ugly. Secondly, he is in the point in his life where he is discovering sexuality and is constantly reminded of it, although nearly all of them have not been positive reinforcements. From the little boy talking about his fathers “juice” to his fathers affair with the kimono woman, Henry begins to show signs of sexual aggressiveness, beginning with his teacher where he believes she wants to “fuck” the 4th grader, to him feeling up the woman at the pool, which might have started as an accident but he says,
    “We’ve got to get out of here! That fate lady is going to tell the lifeguard that I touched her cunt!”
    “What’d you do that for?” Red asked
    “I wanted to see what it felt like (…) A guy’s got to get started sometime” (64-65)
    From his we can gather that he isn’t learning about respect of others because he is never respected or valued and this leads to the corruption of his innocence. I believe his father is his greatest influence of negativity and abuse, that is later layered by the behavior of the other boys around him, giving way to a path of anger and competition.

    Michelle Jette

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  28. Henry grows up in a very rugged atmosphere being weighed down by his parents, the world around him and his own way of thinking. Henry’s father takes up most of the weight because he is a strict and abusive figure who puts constant pressure on him and disregards everything he has to say in a crude manner. “Children should be seen and not heard” (17). Going through both psychological and physical abuse Henry is forced to adapt to his surroundings; beat or be beaten. This is seen in the way he acts socially and inter-personally avoiding interaction and staying in bed all day when he is not out of the house: “I liked too stay in bed for hours, even during the day with the covers pulled up to my chin. It was good in there, nothing ever occurred in there, no people, nothing” (38). This kind of behavior from such a young child is abnormal already showing signs of depression and a want to be in utter seclusion from society. Although abnormal it is unfortunately expected growing up in such a difficult environment. What is amazing about Henry is the way he views certain situations, taking his first beating as an example. In the midst of getting viciously beaten Henry’s childish yet mature mind comes to the surface: ” I thought about his roses, how he grew roses in the yard. I tried not to scream. I knew that if I did scream he might stop, but knowing this, and knowing his desire for me to scream, prevented me(39). Henry becomes defiant and hardened by all the negative that his life is presented with, but his childish spirit shines through regardless. Henry is still a young boy who is in need of the natural things in life, like attention, friendships, exercise, but obviously doing these things is harder than it seems. There will always be a struggle between doing normal child things, but living in a world that is completely against him.

    Lucas Tremblay-Moll

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  29. Henry grows up in an unhealthy environment especially at home. A child should feel the safest at home where he has a place in a family, yet for Henry it is chaos at home. His life revolves around violence, disobedience and pain. During this period in time, it was almost a normal thing for the father of the household to make all the decisions with no questions asked! Even henry’s mother does not speak up against her husband but actually supports his actions, “ ‘the father’ she said. ‘Is always right’”(39). We even heard Bukowski say this exact quote in the film we watched last class. His father was the one who gave him beatings whenever Henry disobeyed his orders or even talked back to him. His household is almost like a dictatorship. This is a lot for a kid to handle, which basically makes Henry become so salty and hardened. The vulgarity and violence he is open to from so young influences the way he acts at school. One day Henry tells the teacher, “let’s fuck”(56). He doesn’t understand what sort of language and behaviour is acceptable for school or in public because of the way he is raised. The way he is raised, allows him to have no filter and reflect the way his parents act around the house but in public places. He is still too young to understand what is socially acceptable.

    Andrew Augoustis

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  30. We can say that Henry is growing up by himself. What I mean by himself is that there is nobody that can help him in his life. His parents seems to no like, his father his very strict with his son and always beat him for no reason and his mom seems always agreed on his dad; ” The father is always right” (39) So already his dad is always angry on his son knowing somethings its for nothing and her mom does nothing to help this situation. The other problem for Henry is that he can’t socialize with his neighbourhood “My father always ran the neighbourhood kids away from our house.” (60) His father thinks that his family is special and for that his son can’t meet other kids. Because of all that, it leads Henry to be an outcast and the kids at school bully him for no reason. So I think the reason of why Henry seems to be lonely is because of his parents.. if his parents were more there for him and let him do what he wants that would help Henry but its not the case on this novel. Henry have no choice than learn life by his own.

    Alex Mukwende

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  31. Henry is growing up in the 1920s depression in the United States. His family consists of him, his mother and father. His family is poor but his parents have dreams of becoming rich one day. His father is the type of person who controls the family and wants Henry to follow orders. HE expects nothing but perfection does not give Henry any love or room to be himself. The father does not believe that a child is smart or should give an opinion. The father even goes as far as to say “the only thing that runs deep with him are the holes in his ear”(22) when speaking to Henrys aunt. Henry sees that neither of his parents are there to protect him. His father gave Henry an impossible task of getting every hair of grass from the lawn. When Henrys father inspected he found some and reacted “MAMA! MAMA! I found a hair! Come I’ll show you! I can see it! I can see two of them!” and she responds “Yes Daddy I see them…” (69). this then results in Henry being beaten. It shows how both parents are unfair towards Henry and shows him that he can only count on himself to make sure he’s ok. The people around Henry do not treat him well, from his classmates to his teachers. When he does make a friend it is with someone who also gets mistreated by people. His friend David would get beaten up by their classmates and his mom. Henry is learning from the people around him that the only thing that matters in life is status and sex. The focus of sex is very prominent. He is learning that it is important. He is discovering women but is learning to see them as objects and not real people. He went around school and “looked at the little girls and imagined myself doing it with them” (55).

    Natacha Colimon

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  32. The world that Henry is being brought up in is one of abuse, violence, and sadness. Henry’s family life is turbulent. His father abuses his mother and him on a regular basis. Henry is not close to his extended family seeing as his father has a bad relationship with all of them. Henry describes his father’s side of the family as alcoholics.Henry receives mixte messages from his peers. For example, in chapter 15, Henry makes a new friend named Red. They become close and share many marking moment. However, Red ends up leaving town without warning Henry. Henry describes the moment as the following: “One day, they were just gone. just like that, Red never said anything in advance to me.” (65) What Henry is learning in this case is that he doesn’t deserve anything good in life. Another example is when he is taken away from playing football to do housework. He slaved all day and followed his father’s strict rules. After a long grueling day, his father is still unappreciated and turns Henry’s mother against him
    “See them? he asked her. “Two hairs. See them?”
    “Yes, Daddy, I see them…”(69)

    This teaches Henry that he is alone in the world that he can only rely on himself.

    Melvin Buquerente

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