The Stone Boy Questions and Answers
by Gina Berriault

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In "The Stone Boy," how is Arnold treated by the other characters after Eugene's death?

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In "The Stone Boy," Arnold and his brother Eugene are going to pick peas when Arnold's rifle accidentally discharges, killing Eugene. Instead of immediately going for help, Arnold picks the peas until the sun rises, and then tells his parents. The reaction towards his actions is shocked and hostile; the sheriff wonders why he didn't go for help, and comes to the following conclusion:

"Well, all I can say is," he said across to Arnold's father and Uncle Andy, "he's either a moron or he's so reasonable that he's way ahead of us." He gave a challenging snort. "It's come to my notice that the most reasonable guys are mean ones. They don't feel nothing."
(Berriault, "The Stone Boy," Google Books)

For the rest of the story, Arnold's family and the people who come over to console them treat Arnold as an outsider, almost as if he is not there. The men comment that Arnold is "reasonable," since he knew instinctively that nothing could be done, and he conscientiously performed his job instead of breaking down in tears. However, this also makes Arnold seem heartless and without compassion; Arnold, for his part, is still young and cannot fully understand his feelings. At first, he bottles his emotions up inside rather than risk more hostility; when he goes to his mother for comfort, she rebuffs him. By the end of the story, the hostility that Arnold feels from others -- especially his family -- has altered his thinking, and he starts to believe that he is meant to live without feelings.

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