This story is about the transition from the innocence of childhood to a more realistic understanding of the world. The narrator, Lizabeth, begins the story by describing the dusty setting and later equates that to the poverty which is "the cage in which [they] all were trapped." Lizabeth's life is...
This story is about the transition from the innocence of childhood to a more realistic understanding of the world. The narrator, Lizabeth, begins the story by describing the dusty setting and later equates that to the poverty which is "the cage in which [they] all were trapped." Lizabeth's life is barren and devoid of hope. She watches her father leave day after day to try to find work in their community. Despite his best efforts, he has returned home daily for years empty handed, and her mother has earned only a meager income which is incapable of supporting the youngest children in their family, who have been sent to live with relatives.
Lizabeth's father begins crying because he believes that he has failed his family. His sobs are deep and loud, and this shocks Lizabeth. To see her father cry is a further disruption of the innocence of her childhood. Until this moment, she "had never heard a man cry before" and "did not know men ever cried." She had always looked to her father as the strong, solid force of their family, and his emotional breakdown reveals that he has struggles of his own.
Her father's sadness causes the ordered world of her childhood to lose its "boundary lines." In this world, she must realize that her father may not have all the answers and can't be endlessly strong for his family. In recognizing his limits, Lizabeth is left wondering how the world is truly structured. Suddenly, she isn't sure where she fits in, and this sense of a world without perfect order leaves her bewildered.
She carries this sense of bewilderment with her, full of a sense of hopelessness surrounding her family's poverty, to Miss Lottie's yard and destroys the beauty Miss Lottie has tried to create in her own life. Those actions are fueled by the shock of her father's tearful breakdown and demonstrate her childlike response to feelings of fear and disappointment.