Last Updated on August 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 803
The narrator's father is 34 when the story begins and 45 by the end of the story. He used to be a farm hand, and the narrator believes his father was intended by nature to be a "cheerful, kindly man." This perception is arguable, given that he must intentionally choose to have a positive outlook on the restaurant—his attempts to smile at customers are forced.
The narrator's father is also described as aging into someone "discouraged" and "silent." This seems more in tune with his actual nature, as he seems to have a long-lasting negative influence on his son's emotions, formulated in his early years. Despite being an introvert, the narrator's father seems to fancy himself as a burgeoning entertainer, but learns (after his encounter with Joe Kane from Bidwell) that being a public entertainer is not his gift.
Despite his failures at the chicken farm, which he attempts to make thrive into something economically advantageous for ten years, he keeps a fascination with hens and eggs, especially the odd tricks that can be done with eggs and the "grotesques"—which are deformed baby hens that do not live long. His fascination with eggs and deformed animals show him to be a country man at heart, as well as being gimmicky and a bit morbid in taste.
The narrator's mother is a school teacher when the story begins. She is described as being a reader and having a long nose. She seems to have a strong influence over the narrator's father, putting notions of success in his head. For instance, the narrator attributes his father losing his savings on fake chicken disease cures to his mother finding advertisements in the paper and suggesting them.
It was also her idea to start the restaurant across from the railroad station in Pickleville. She has no ambition for herself, but desires her husband and son to be successful. Not only does she encourage her husband toward business ventures, but she also schemes to get her son into a good "town school," which is part of her motivation for wanting to open the restaurant in Pickleville.
Although she is unfairly blamed for many of the failures for simply prompting the attempts—which one can infer originated in the mind of the narrator's father instead of in the boy's own young mind—she is also shown to be the strong one in the marriage. Just as she holds all the items on the cart together, keeping them from falling as they move, she also "keeps it together" when every disheartening failure occurs, remaining a kind of emotional rock that the narrator's father can go to when he is distraught.
The narrator is a disillusioned man and has been cynical since boyhood. He attributes his disillusion to growing up on a farm, but that is only because he drew parallels between the futile lives of hens and his own father's failed attempts at success. The observations he makes on the chicken farm, and the...
(The entire section contains 803 words.)
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