Student Question

What aspects of "A Mother in Mannville" did you find appealing and attention-grabbing?

Expert Answers

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The first thing that attracts me to this story is the beautifully descriptive language Rawlings uses. She describes the Carolina mountains in such detail that I feel like I've been there. Below is one of my favorite descriptive passages:

Other days they ran with common ecstasy through the laurel, and since the asters were now gone, he brought me back vermilion maple leaves, and chesnut boughs dripping with imperial yellow.

I love the imagery of the boy and dog running with joy through the laurel, and of the rich fall colors of the leaves. Below is another line I particularly like: 

The human mind scatters its interests as though made of thistle-down, and every wind stirs and moves it.

This is such a poetic way of saying that humans are often fickle in their attention and affections. 

Secondly, I like the character Marjorie Rawlings has drawn in the boy Jerry. She describes him through physical description, his actions, and dialogue. She describes him as a young boy who has a special quality. The narrator of the story calls it integrity. She says it's more than just being honest or brave. 

I also like the relationship the narrator develops with Jerry. It begins as a business relationship, but it grows into something more. She admires Jerry and begins to care about him deeply. She wasn't planning on developing any type of friendship, however, as she was only there to write. I like the description of a relationship that only lasts for a short season, as many relationships do in life. This brief relationship really affects the narrator, as she describes in the story. It reminds me of the following quote by Flavia Weedn: 

Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same.

What catches my attention about this story is the ending, when the reader finds out Jerry does not have a mother in Mannville, although he told the narrator he does. This is a dichotomy—Jerry is described as so honest and full of integrity that it is surprising to find out that he lies about something so important. This is a boy who was going to forego his earnings chopping wood when the ax handle breaks, assuming responsibility for its breaking. This dichotomy leaves room for the reader to ponder why Jerry would make up such a story. I love stories that leave room for readers to make inferences.

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