Cracker Jackson Critical Essays

Betsy Byars


(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Cracker Jackson discusses many themes that are important to a young reader. First, it provides an accurate description of domestic violence. The reader gains insight into the development and behavior patterns involved in spousal abuse. While it is obvious that Billy Ray, with his unstable and explosive personality, is dangerous, the story also describes the changes that took place in Billy Ray as he acquired adult pressures and responsibilities. Cracker sadly remembers him as once being fun-loving and laughing. The novel is even more compelling in its portrayal of the victim, Alma. She is a good, caring person, but she is totally dominated by Billy Ray’s violence. Her excuses and justifications allow the situation to continue. She proves unable, and in fact unwilling, to defend herself—and even more important, her baby—until tragedy occurs. The cyclical pattern of domestic violence becomes apparent when Billy Ray’s mother tells Alma that there is nothing wrong with a man hitting his wife. To prove this, she describes how Billy Ray’s father used to hit her, until his arthritis got too bad.

Cracker Jackson also describes a boy’s introduction to the serious problems that may come with adulthood. Cracker tries valiantly to cope with the adult responsibilities that Alma has forced upon him. Ironically, his efforts are hindered by the adults around him. Cracker and Goat try to do what is right, in spite of the rules of the adult world. They provide both the moral and the logical core of the novel. During the aborted drive to...

(The entire section is 640 words.)