Aimee Bender

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Student Question

Interpret Aimee Bender’s story “The Neighborhood.”

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To interpret a story like Aimee Bender's “The Neighborhood,” we have to determine the story’s primary message and then look at how it presents that message. Let’s examine the story closely to help you get started on this assignment.

We can think about the title first: “The Neighborhood.” This title proves to be quite ironic, for while the people in this place live close to one another, they are largely focused on themselves. When they hear the dog barking, all they can think of is that it has rabies. There is no logical reason to think this. Dogs bark for many reasons other than rabies, and indeed, this dog is doing so. Yet the neighbors are so constrained by their self-centered fear that no one goes out to check.

The dog, of course, is trying to get help for Eddie, who has knocked himself unconscious in a skating accident. The friend who is skating with him is so centered on himself that he does not even go back to look, and it even takes the friend’s mother quite some time before she decides to go out and find Eddie. She, too, is afraid of the dog. Her son refuses to go with her when she finally builds up enough courage to go look for Eddie because he is “busy” with his blocks.

The neighbors call the police when they see the mother with Eddie, and one of the police officers regards the dog as a hero and takes the animal with him. The police and ambulance take Eddie to the hospital, but very few cars even get out of the way for the emergency vehicles. The drivers are oblivious to anything but themselves.

Of all the characters in the story, the mother is the one who may actually have learned something. She realizes the fragility of human beings, and she symbolically frames her son’s sleeping body in blocks in an effort to protect him.

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