Why does Lizabeth in "Marigolds" get so upset by her father’s tears?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This excellent short story by Eugenia W. Collier unfortunately does not have a group, so I will live it in the Literature section of enotes. Lizabeth is so upset by her father's tears at the state that he finds himself in: unemployed and unable to earn money to provide for his family. There is definitely an element of brutal realism in this story as it explores the poverty that so many black families had to face and the difficulties they had trying to find employment. However, this state is one that Lizabeth's father finds incredibly difficult to bear, and as a result, he starts to cry. This is something that is devastating to Lizabeth, as she tells us:

I had never heard a man cry before. I did not know men every cried. I covered my ears with my hands but could not cut off the sound of my father's harsh, painful, despairing sobs.

The sight of her father crying bears no relation to Lizabeth's picture of him as a strong man who laughs a lot and does not get depressed or burdened by worries. The impact this has on Lizabeth is summed up when she says, in the paragraph straight after this sight, that "The world had lost its boundary lines." Lizabeth's world will never be the same again now that she has had her image of her father shattered.

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