Mom Luby And The Social Worker

What are the similarities and differences between the short stories "Mom Luby and the Social Worker" by Kristin Hunter and "Shabine" by Hazel Simmonds-McDonald?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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There are several similarities and differences between the two short stories "Mom Luby and the Social Worker" by Kristen Hunter and "Shabine" by Hazel Simmons-McDonald. The two stories particularly share setting in common, with some differences, and theme in common, with some differences.

Both stories are set during the same general time period, though in different locations. Hunter's short story is set in the US during the Prohibition, roughly between 1920 and 1933, a period of time in which Hunter herself was born into. We can tell it's set during the Prohibition because the protagonist Mom Luby is described as running a speakeasy in the back of her house. A speakeasy was a slang term used to describe places that illegally sold alcoholic beverages during the Prohibition ("Speakeasy"). During the Prohibition, bootlegging was established as quite a lucrative market; many even made fortunes off of bootlegging. As a poor woman, Mom Luby runs the speakeasy in order to survive and care for her two foster children. Similarly, the short story "Shabine" is set around the time of World War II, which started just after the Prohibition ended. The Prohibition ended in 1933, while WWII started in 1939. Just as the Prohibition has direct bearing on Hunter's short story, WWII also directly relates to the short story "Shabine" in that it helps create the social conflict. In "Shabine," the protagonist Justene is understood to be a very sexually promiscuous woman, specifically known to sleep with sailors. We also know that during WWII, America had many troops stationed in the Caribbean, the location of the short story's setting. Hence, the fact that it was set during WWII has direct bearing on the short story because this time period enables Justene to be promiscuous with US sailors. However, unlike Hunter's story, which is set in the US, "Shabine" is set on an unidentified island in the Caribbean.

The two short stories also share a similar theme, particularly the theme of love and family. The story "Mom Luby and the Social Worker" concerns Mom Luby's choice to foster two children, and the conflict revolves around the question of whether or not she is capable of raising two children. Similarly, Justine in "Shabine" is portrayed as caring very much for her two sons, Gold and Silver, and doing all she can to protect them. Both short stories also portray the theme of social injustice, though in different ways. In Hunter's short story, Mom Luby is being investigated by a social worker to see if she is fit enough to take care of the children. The social irony in the story concerns the fact that, though she is discriminated against due to her age, Mom Luby proves herself to be more physically capable of caring for the children than even the young social worker herself; though, social injustice is further portrayed when, despite Mom Luby's abilities, the social worker comments that Mom Luby would never be qualified to become a social worker herself. Similarly, "Shabine" portrays themes of social injustice; though, in contrast, "Shabine" specifically addresses social discrimination against women in society. More specifically, Justene is treated poorly for her sexual promiscuity, while Mr. Cazaubon is treated respectably, showing the society's hypocritical treatment of women vs. men.

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