Last Updated September 5, 2023.
How tiny and rubbery it is! She thinks, soaping between the boy's legs, giving him his bath. Just a funny giggly little thing that looks like it shouldn't be there at all. Is that what all the songs are about?
"The Babysitter" contains many stories in one. Some of these stories are innocent, involving the humdrum evening of a babysitter watching children while their parents are at a party. Other stories within this story are deadly and violent, involving rape and death. The excerpt above, in which the babysitter looks at the boy's young body in the bath, involves the question of whether sex is innocent or violent. As she soaps the boy, the babysitter thinks his body is merely innocent and innocuous. Other, later strands in the story involve rape and the violent use of men's bodies. This excerpt is, then, ironic, as the babysitter thinks about how innocent men are, when the opposite turns out to be true. This passage is also about the babysitter's own innocence, which is about to be forever destroyed. The babysitter is not yet aware of the violence that awaits her.
Bitsy runs naked into the living room, keeping a hassock between herself and the babysitter. "Bitsy . . . !" the babysitter threatens. Artificial reds and greens and purples flicker over the child's body, as hooves clatter, guns crackle, and stagecoach wheels clutter over rutted terrain.
Bitsy, one of the children the babysitter is watching, enters the room naked. Her body is distorted by the colors on the television, and the soundtrack is that of a western. This excerpt is about the way in which television distorts reality. The television set literally splashes eerie colors onto the girl's innocent body. In a more metaphorical sense, television causes the distortion of life. Bitsy is a younger version of the babysitter and of women in general, who are shown in distorted ways on television. One of the stories within the larger story is about the way in which the babysitter watches a news program about another babysitter who has suffered a disastrous fate. Therefore, it is difficult for the reader to tell what really happens to the babysitter at the center of the story. This difficulty is symbolic of the way in which television warps our understanding of the world. It's hard for us to sort out the difference between what is real and what is a distortion of the world portrayed on TV.
"What can I say, Dolly?" the host says with a sigh, twisting the buttered strands of her girdle between his fingers. "Your children are murdered, your husband gone, a corpse in your bathtub, and your house is wrecked. I'm sorry, but what can I say?" On the TV, the news is over and they're selling aspirin. "Hell, I don't know," she says. "Let's see what's on the late late movie."
Dolly Tucker, the mother in the story, has been caught in her too-tight girdle at the party she attends. The girdle represents the strictures of the culture and its constriction of women, who must stuff their bodies into garments that make them look thinner. The host, in an absurd way, tells Dolly her children have been murdered and that the babysitter is dead. The television plays in the background, advertising aspirin, which cannot help Dolly in her current situation. The television seems almost obscene in this context, but Dolly only suggests watching the late late movie. This passage is about the way in which it's hard to sort out reality from what is portrayed on television. It is also about the way in which people turn to television to escape their own realities.