Tuesday, October 14, 2008

“Daddy Wolf” by James Purdy is a disturbing key-hole glimpse into the life of a pressured New York citizen in a struggle for survival. Benny, the main character, explains the reason for his prolonged use of the telephone booth by going on a rant about his problems: his wife and child leaving him, his desolate status, the disgusting state of his apartment and the rat infestation problem that he has but cannot convince his landlord to care about. Is his desperate tone a reflection on his life or a metaphorical comment on society from the author?
The narration style of the main character is reminiscent of “Aftermath” by Mary Yukari Waters, a short story about a widow in post-war Japan trying to come to terms with loss of her husband as she fights the enculturation of America while raising their son alone. Both stories revolve around the struggle of endurance, and acceptance. Both Benny and Makiko have lost their spouses and are now feeling entirely alone with an important task upon their shoulders.
The speaking style of Benny is that of an uneducated individual with bad grammar and form which is in contrast to Maiko’s language, which is fluid and graceful, but both characters express their sorrow efficiently. Benny’s speech, while meant to be noticed, doesn’t get in the way of the dialogue. “Daddy Wolf” evoked feelings of repulsion, intrigue and sympathy, much like the movie Citizen Kane, the groundbreaking movie directed by Orson Welles. “Daddy Wolf”, Citizen Kane, and “Aftermath” all weave their stories through memories or glimpses into the past.
The most unsettling part of “Daddy Wolf” was Daddy Wolf, a mysterious man who listens to women’s problems on the phone and attempts to give advice: “…when things got so rough, my wife did call Daddy Wolf…the number is CRack 8-7869…and only ladies can call”. The image that came to mind is of a Little Red Riding Hood type character, a stereotypical fairytale wolf, sitting behind a big mahogany desk, with snarling yellow teeth just waiting for helpless women to call so he can find his next victim. And even though Benny admitted to the fact that Daddy Wolf helped his wife by convincing her to stay faithful to her husband and not use her body to earn money, something still feels instinctually wrong about the situation. This I believe, was the intent of the author, to make the reader feel grimy and concerned simultaneously, both elements which were captured perfectly in this story.


No comments: