How is Mr. Penn a dynamic character in “The Revolt of ‘Mother’”?

In “The Revolt of ‘Mother’” by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, Adoniram Penn changes from being stubborn and unresponsive early in the story when his wife protests about his building of a new barn to being stunned, speechless, emotional, and repentant at the end after his wife has moved their family into the new barn. Adoniram has learned an important lesson about marriage.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

A dynamic character is one who experiences a significant change by the end of a story. In “The Revolt of 'Mother'” by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, Adoniram Penn, also know as “father,” seems to be as set in his ways as he can possibly be. He has been married to his wife, Sarah, for forty years, and when they married, he promised her that he would build her a brand new house on a specific piece of land. Now, however, Adoniram has decided to build a brand-new barn there instead.

When Sarah asks Adoniram why men are digging in the field, he refuses to tell her, remarking that she should “'tend to her own affairs.” Sarah, however persists and learns about the new barn. Adorniram refuses to say another word about the matter. He just goes on about his work.

After dinner, Sarah speaks to Adoniram again. At first, he does not want to listen at all, but she insists that he sit down because she has something to say. He does. Sarah makes an impassioned speech about the inadequacy of their current house. It is old and tiny, and it will never do for their soon-to-be-married daughter, Nanny, and her new husband to live there with the family. Adoniram listens to his wife but repeats, “I ain't got nothin' to say” several times. He simply will not discuss the matter. His mind is made up. The new barn will be built, and it is.

Sarah, however, has ideas of her own. When Adoniram goes away for a few days to buy a new horse, Sarah calmly directs her children to move all their household goods into the new barn. She sets up a cozy housekeeping there and returns to her usual work as though the new barn were always intended to be a new house.

When Adoniram returns home, he experiences the surprise of his life, and his reaction is priceless. At first, he is dazed, pale, and rather frightened. He can merely ask, “What are airth you all down here for?” Sarah tells him plainly that the family will live in the new barn from now on, and he will have to put up partitions and windows and buy some new furniture to fill the space.

Adoniram is nearly speechless and not out of stubbornness this time. All he can say is, “Why, mother!” After supper, Adoniram goes out to sit on the doorstep. When Sarah joins him, she realizes that he is weeping. Through his tears, he says that he will put up partitions and everything Sarah wants. Sarah has not expected this. Her “fortress” of a husband has lost all his resistance. Adoniram realizes, for once in his life, that he has been wrong. He has developed an emotional side that Sarah never expects. He may still be stubborn in the future, but Sarah has taught him an important lesson that giving goes along with taking in a marriage, and he will be a better man for it. This is why Adoniram Penn is a dynamic character.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial