Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 425
Friedman’s ‘‘Brazzaville Teen-ager’’ begins with an introduction of Gunther, a young man who has always expected that his father would open up to him only in dire circumstances. When his father gets sick with an unknown, potentially fatal disease and is confined in a hospital harness, Gunther puts this theory...
(The entire section contains 425 words.)
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Friedman’s ‘‘Brazzaville Teen-ager’’ begins with an introduction of Gunther, a young man who has always expected that his father would open up to him only in dire circumstances. When his father gets sick with an unknown, potentially fatal disease and is confined in a hospital harness, Gunther puts this theory to the test. However, as always, his father is very stoic, giving indifferent, unemotional answers to all of Gunther’s questions, even those concerning the prospect of his death. Gunther leaves and decides that he can help his father recover if he does something outrageous, an embarrassing act that will sacrifice Gunther’s self-esteem. Gunther goes in to work the next day and confronts his boss, Hartman, of whom he is terrified. Gunther explains that his dad is ill and says that if his boss will sing backup for a doo-wop band, for a new single that is about to be recorded, it will help Gunther’s father get better. Hartman is understandably confused at Gunther’s logic and kicks him out of his office.
That night, Gunther is driving around Manhattan and finds himself driving out to Hartman’s estate, where he interrupts a dinner. Hartman takes Gunther into a side room, where Gunther pleads with his boss again to do the backup singing. Hartman’s wife interrupts them and convinces her husband to help Gunther. The next day, Gunther uses his lunch hour to talk to Conrad Jaggers, a young record company president whom Gunther had met in a bar. Gunther convinces Jaggers to let Hartman be a backup singer on ‘‘Brazzaville Teenager,’’ a new single that Jaggers had mentioned over drinks. Later that day, Hartman shows up to do the backup singing, and Jaggers asks him to try to sing like a little boy. Despite this potentially humiliating experience, Hartman admits on the ride back that he enjoyed himself somewhat. Gunther sees a man flipping pancakes in a restaurant window and convinces an initially unwilling Hartman to flip a round of pancakes. Gunther thinks this extra insurance will definitely help his father get better. Gunther’s father does get better, but he is as stoic as ever. Gunther helps his father back to his apartment, where he tries and fails to start a serious conversation. After Gunther has seen his father safely into his apartment, he starts taking the elevator down to the lobby. He stops the elevator and screams up at his father, frustrated that even his embarrassing acts did not break the communication barrier between him and his father.