In The Watsons Go to Birmingham, what are the strengths and weaknesses of the Watson family? 

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the great strengths of the Watson family is that they have a great sense of humor and can laugh together. For example, during the cold spell in Flint, Michigan in Chapter One, the dad starts talking "Southern-style" and making fun of Momma's former beau, "Hambone Henderson" (page 4). His sense of humor, and Momma's humorous replies, keep the family laughing and take their minds off the cold. The dad even makes the family's lack of money funny at times. For example, when their 1948 Plymouth starts up (this car is fifteen years old in 1963), the dad says, "the Great Brown One pulled through again!" (page 6). His humor makes everyone cheer, so he is able to turn their tribulations into camaraderie. 

The weaknesses of the family is that Byron often makes life difficult for them, and Byron does not always support his family. For example, when Byron's mouth gets stuck on a frozen mirror, Kenny says, "If it had been me with my lips stuck on something like this he'd have tortured me for a couple of days before he got help" (page 13). Bryon does not always support his siblings, though they support him, and he even tries to beat Kenny up with his friend, Buphead. While the Watson parents are very loving, they don't know how to handle Byron, and they are often inconsistent in discipling him. Momma threatens Bryon to stop lighting paper on fire, but when Joetta cries, Momma lets Byron off the hook (page 43). As a result, Byron starts lighting fires again, endangering the entire family. Eventually, Momma has to threaten to burn Byron to make him stop lighting fires. Later, the Watson parents decide to take Byron to Momma's mother in Birmingham because they realize they just can't handle him. Byron's difficulty create a strain on the entire family, and they don't always know how to respond consistently and effectively. 

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The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

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