What do you learn about Jerry's character from the way he behaves?

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hgarey71 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings' short story "A Mother in Mannville," readers learn a great deal about Jerry from his actions or the way he behaves.

1. He is hardworking. There is evidence for this in the text in the following quote: 

We went together back of the cabin. An astonishing amount of solid wood had been cut. There were cherry logs and heavy roots of rhododendron, and blocks from the waste pine and oak left from the building of the cabin. 'But you've done as much as a man,' I said. 'This is a splendid pile.'

He chops wood for an hour and a half that first day, which is all the time he has, as he has to get back for supper. He exceeds the narrator's expectations with his excellent work. He faithfully comes again until he has chopped enough wood for kindling, medium wood, and backlogs.  

2. He is compassionate. There is evidence of this in the text in two places. First, in the quote below: 

And he did for me the unnecessary thing, the gracious thing, that we find done only by the great of heart. Things no training can teach, for they are done on the instant, with no predicated experience. He found a cubbyhole beside the fireplace that I had not noticed. There, of his own accord, he put kindling and "medium" wood, so that I might always have dry fire material ready in case of sudden wet weather.

This was an act of compassion, as Jerry thought about and fulfilled the needs of another. Jerry's other example of compassion come from his relationship with the narrator's dog, a pointer named Pat. The narrator describes their simple communion with each other and their joy in each other's company. He goes above and beyond what is expected in caring for the dog when the narrator leaves the state for a weekend, caring for the dog as though he was his own. He treats the dog with compassion. 

3. He has a moral compass. 

There is evidence for this fact in several areas in the text. One example is when he offers to pay for the ax handle that broke, claiming responsibility for it. He says he brought the ax handle down carelessly. He is willing to accept the consequences of that action.

Another example is when he tells the narrator that he might have told a story, or lie, because he told the people at the orphanage that the narrator wanted to see him after her trip out of state. He also follows the rules, leaving when he is supposed to for supper, and being responsible for finishing his work on time.

4. He is lonely. The textual evidence that Jerry is lonely is found in his desire to continue to see the narrator and her dog after the initial work of chopping wood is complete. It is also found in the lie that he told about his mother living in Mannville. Miss Clark reveals at the story's end that Jerry doesn't have a mother who visits him. This lie shows that he is lonely for a family, and uses his imagination to invent what he doesn't have.