Themes

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 484

One thing that really makes an impression on the reader about this text is how large the specter of hunger looms over the Baldridge family at almost all times. Brack and Alpha Baldridge have opposing ideas about how to manage their family's scant resources, especially during the very lean times....

(The entire section contains 484 words.)

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One thing that really makes an impression on the reader about this text is how large the specter of hunger looms over the Baldridge family at almost all times. Brack and Alpha Baldridge have opposing ideas about how to manage their family's scant resources, especially during the very lean times. Alpha wants to make their stores last as long as they can by feeding their own children only instead of sharing with Brack's grown family members who seem unwilling to shift for themselves. She says,

"We have enough bran for three more pans of bread. If the children eat it by themselves, it might last a week. It won't last us all more than three meals. Your kin will have to go today." Father put his spoon down with a clatter. "My folks eat when we eat," he said, "and as long as we eat."

Brack, obviously, feels strongly that, in principle, his family should have food for as long as he has food. Later, some neighbors come, begging for food, saying that they have nothing. Brack allows them to strip the garden bare of beans when his own children had been waiting for that very food. He says to Alpha,

"'You can't turn down folks who are starving,' Father said at last, and he knew his words sounded foolish and with no weight."

A reader can understand both positions, right? We can relate to Alpha, who just wants her children to be fed and doesn't want to give it away to people who could look elsewhere for sustenance. In fact, their youngest child, the baby Green, ends up dying in part, perhaps, because he does not have enough food. But we can also understand Brack's principle, that we have a human obligation to help take care of people if we can. It becomes impossible to judge either position fairly: whether a starving person chooses either to keep their food for their own children or to share with friends and neighbors who are also in need, it is unfair to judge them.

Later, Brack gives his son, the narrator, a really valuable piece of advice that proves to be true in many instances in the book. In fact, this opinion might even help to explain his position on sharing the food they have in the moment rather than trying to make provisions for the future. He says,

"'There ain't no sense trying to see afar off,' Father warned. "It's better to keep your eyeballs on things nigh, and let the rest come according to law and prophecy."

In other words, we can only really focus on the present. The future has too many variables, and too many things can happen for us to try to plan on or hope for one particular outcome. Best to just keep one's attention on the here and now, and the future will come, come what may.

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