In Morley Callaghan's short story "All The Years of Her Life," what is Alfred's first reaction when Mr. Carr accuses him of stealing?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Morley Callaghan's short story "All The Years of Her Life," when the drugstore owner Sam Carr accuses Alfred Higgins of theft, Alfred's first reaction is one of denial.

When Mr. Carr first says he knows Alfred has a compact, lipstick, and two tubes of toothpaste in his pockets, Alfred first asks what he means. When playing dumb doesn't work, he asks, "Do you think I'm crazy," meaning crazy enough to endanger his job by stealing petty objects. The narrator next describes that Alfred's face grew red, probably from a mixture of embarrassment, shame, and anger. The effect of the flush is to make Alfred's face look "fierce with indignation," meaning fierce with anger at unjustly treated and insulted.

Yet, soon, Alfred has no choice but to pull the items out of his pocket. Soon, Alfred's reaction turns to one of shame and fright, but he knows his mother will successfully get him off the hook. Back at home, when he sees just how frightened his mother is by his actions and thoughts of what could become of his future, he finally feels the full weight of his actions and knows it is time for him to take responsibility and be a man.

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All the Years of Her Life

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