What did John's father give him when he was 10 years old?

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Readers can find the answer to this question near the very end of chapter nine. Chapter nine, narrated by John, is where the readers see John trying to figure out why exactly he is the way that he is. John then tells readers about a common experience of his when...

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Readers can find the answer to this question near the very end of chapter nine. Chapter nine, narrated by John, is where the readers see John trying to figure out why exactly he is the way that he is. John then tells readers about a common experience of his when he was ten years old.

“Johnny wants a sip of beer,” Bore used to say in the old days. He got a big kick out of it when I was about ten years old, and I’d go around emptying all the beer glasses lying around the house.

John calls his father "Bore," and this is not the first time that John has shown readers that his father is a complete failure as a father. Apparently, Bore saw him finishing beer out of nearly empty cans and glasses. Instead of reprimanding John, his father thought it was hilarious. His father would even tell guests about it, and John would repeat the drinking. Everybody would laugh again, and John was once again given positive reinforcement for his behavior. Unfortunately, the positive reinforcement causes John to make a positive connection about something that is completely inappropriate for a child to be doing. John's father predicts that John will someday grow up to have an actual drinking problem.

“That kid’s going to be a real drinker,” he’d say . . .

Not surprisingly John's father winds up being correct. It's just too bad that it came true so early in John's life.

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In chapter nine, John goes to the cemetery to have a beer with Norton like they often do. The two get into an argument because Norton threatens to rob Mr. Pignati if John doesn't tell him more about the old man. John leaves disgusted with Norton, but also reflects on his own state of being as well. His mind drifts back to when he was ten years old and his father allowed him to drink beer.

"Sometimes I try to figure out why I'm the way I am. Take my drinking for instance. 'Johnny wants a sip of beer,' Bore used to say in the old days. He got a big kick out of it when I was about ten years old, and I'd go around emptying all the beer glasses lying around the house" (103).

Giving children alcohol is neither funny nor responsible parenting. John's father would laugh and tell everyone in the house, or at the party, that his son would grow up to be a great drinker, while the older son was off at college making them proud. Thus, John connects the dots and believes that the way to gain approval from his father is to drink beer. Contrast the way John feels at his home with the way he feels when he is with Mr. Pignati and there's no competition between the two. John feels more love and acceptance from a nice old man than he does from his own parents.

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