What are several ways Byron helped Kenny throughout Chapter 4?

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When their mother piles the winter wear on both little Joey and Kenny, both are at their wits end: they just can't convince her that it gets too hot underneath all that bulky wear.

In the end, Kenny complains to By (Byron), his older brother, even though he doesn't really think By cares too much one way or the other. However, By surprises Kenny when he promises his two younger siblings that he will explain why they actually need to wear everything their mother puts on them.Before he starts in on the explanations, however, he makes both of them promise to act surprised when their mother finally lets on to them why she piles all those clothes on them. They both agree; Kenny is initially skeptical but decides to hear By out.

What transpires is By concocting an elaborately, hilarious story about frozen, Southern people who need to be carted off in garbage trucks, after succumbing to the merciless Michigan winter temperatures, of course. By tells the amazed Joey and Kenny that all these Southern people become frozen because their blood is too thin, and the only way for Kenny and Joey to avoid a similar fate is to bundle up the way their mother says to. Kenny notices that, after listening to By's story, Joey never complains about wearing bulky clothing again.

By also helps Kenny out when Kenny is bullied by Larry Dunn, a school bully. Larry likes to give the younger boys a hard time by giving them what he calls 'Maytag washes.' This is when Larry stuffs snow into every part of a boy's face, over and over again, sort of like different wash cycles a washer goes through. Thus, Kenny despises Larry and often tries to avoid him.

However, the bully manages to steal Kenny's prized Montgomery Ward leather gloves; with this new acquisition, Larry is able to stuff more snow into someone's face for a longer period of time. Kenny is in tears when he realizes that his mother is going to be upset with him when she finds out that he no longer has his gloves. Aside from this, Kenny believes that his 'thin,' Southern blood could cause his hands to become terribly frostbitten without gloves on.

When By finds his younger brother crying about his gloves, he proceeds to beat up Larry himself. Although Kenny regrets telling his older brother about his missing gloves, he knows that he isn't physically strong enough to fight his own battles and must submit to By's methods for now. By's method of helping may leave much to be desired,  but it appears that he does try to look out for his siblings' welfare in his own way.

Read the study guide:
The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

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