What do the men in the barbershop say that might hurt Woodrow in Belle Prater's Boy?

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The men in the barbershop are incredibly insensitive towards Woodrow.  Clint Akers, the owner, is the ringleader, but the four men "sitting around talking and watching...just chewing the fat", are not much better;  all of them seem to take a sadistic delight in tormenting the young boy.  In the few minutes in which it takes to cut his hair, Woodrow must endure questions about his mother's disappearance, insinuations that she didn't love him and that she was not beautiful, and embarrassing comments about his crossed-eyes.

When they learn through nosy questioning that Woodrow is the infamous Belle Prater's son, the men question him directly about her disappearance, even though he is obviously uncomfortable with the subject.  Esau Ward, one of the men sitting around, goes so far as to ask Woodrow if he has heard anything from his mama, knowing full well that he has not.  Clint Akers then turns the conversation to Gypsy's daddy, and how he used to take Gypsy with him "nearabout every place he went".  The implication to Woodrow's situation is that his mother didn't love him enough to take him with her when she disappeared.

Raymond Muncy then comes in, and when he is told that Woodrow is Belle Prater's boy, comments immediately on Woodrow's crossed eyes.  Clarence Sparks asks if Belle was cross-eyed like her son, and Raymond is quick to respond that Belle "wadn't no beauty like (her sister) Love, but she wadn't cross-eyed either" (Chapter 3).