What is Charles's reaction to the story that Mama tells about the horse in William Melvin Kelley's short story "A Visit to Grandmother"?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In William Melvin Kelley's short story "A Visit to Grandmother," Charles's reaction to the story about GL and the wild horse was very severe and serves to develop themes of the story concerning effects of abuse and sibling rivalry.

During dinner, the Dunsford family reminisces about old family times. The stories of old times especially focus on amusing stories about the protagonist Charles's younger brother by five years, GL. Mama Eva Dunsford is encouraged by her other family members to relate the story of when GL, using a broken chair he said was an antique, swindled a swindler for a wild horse that must have been drugged to look tame. When GL brought the horse home, he convinced his mother to go for a ride in a buggy their father had just repaired for some "white folks." At first, the horse was well behaved but broke off into a gallop, endangering both GL and Mama's lives. Mama is able to stop the horse, and they are able to drag it back home.

What upsets Charles so much about the story is that Charles recognizes he would have been treated very differently had he been the one to swindle the swindler rather than GL. As Charles asserts, he sees no humor in the story because, "in the first place, the horse was gained by fraud. And in the second place, both of you might have been seriously injured or even killed." Charles goes on to bemoan his past as an abused child and how he was treated very differently from GL. For example, Charles asserts that GL was given seconds at dinner while Charles was not, and Mama spent time with GL but not with Charles.

Though Mama protests, saying she loved all of her 10 children equally but needed to treat each one differently based on the child's needs, Charles's reaction to the story and his childhood in general highlights many themes concerning the effects of abuse, the effects of poverty on childrearing, how abuse can drive wedges between family members, and how non-pacified sibling rivalry can drive wedges between family members.

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