Should Wizard Hit Mommy? by John Updike – Summary

The story, “Should Wizard Hit Mommy?” written by John Updike, revolves around the conflicting views of a child and a parent on the child’s future. Parents express their own expectations. They desire that their children should grow up as per their expectations. However, children have their own ambitions and aspirations.

Summary

It was a Saturday evening. Every evening Jack told his daughter Jo a story out of his head. This custom began when she was two. It continued nearly for two years. Each new story was a slight variation of the basic tale. Every story had a central character named Roger — a small creature. It could be Roger Fish, Roger Squirrel or Roger Chipmunk. In every story Roger went to the wise owl and the owl would send Roger to the wizard.

Today’s story was about Roger Skunk. It was a new animal. They must talk about it at nursery school. Jack had got a new hero. He started the story : “Once upon a time, in the deep dark woods, there was a tiny little creature of the name of Roger Skunk.” This Rogar Skunk smelled so bad that none of the other woodland creatures would play with him. They called him stinky Skunk and then they would run away. Roger Skunk would stand there all alone. Two little round tears would fall down from his eyes. Little Jo could already guess what would be the storyline next. She asked “Won’t he see the owl?” Jack continued. There lived a big wise owl in the tiptop of a tree. Roger Skunk told him his pathetic tale. The wise owl advised him to go to the wizard.

At last, Roger Skunk came to a little white house after crossing the dark woods and the swamp. A little old man came out. He had a long grey beard and a pointed blue hat. Roger Skunk told the wizard how all the little animals had run away from him. He smelled very bad. The wizard asked Roger not to get very close to him. Inside the house, all magic things were jumbled together in a big dusty heap. The wizard demanded seven pennies. Roger had only four. He started crying. The wizard sent him to a magic well where Roger found three pennies. He took them back to the wizard. The wizard was happy and made him smell like roses. He ran out into the woods. The other creatures gathered round him because he smelled very good. They played various games the children use to play. They played and laughed all afternoon. Then it began to get dark. They all ran to their mummies.

Roger Skunk’s mommy asked him what that ‘awful smell’ was. Roger replied that he himself smelled like roses. The wizard made him smell like that. She told Roger that they were going right back to that very awful wizard”. Skunk protested that all other animals would run away. She said that he used to smell the way a little Skunk should have. They went to the wizard. She hit the wizard right over the head. The wizard said “OK”. Roger Skunk smelled very bad again. He no longer smelled like that of roses.

Jo was surprised. She felt that Roger Skunk would again be lonely. According to her, Mother Skunk was wrong and the wizard should hit her back. Jack continued with the story. Both mother and son returned home. Mother Skunk was very happy because Roger smelled like a Skunk again. Eventually, all the animals got used to his smell and didn’t mind it at all.

Jo still could not relate to the story. She called Mother Skunk stupid. She asked Jack to tell her a story in which the wizard hits Mother Skunk. Jack tried to reason with her and told her that Roger Skunk loved his mother very much and Mother Skunk knew what was right for her baby.

Jack told Joanne to have a rest and stay on bed. He praised her as a good girl. Jack closed the door and went down stairs to his wife. He felt guilty, looking around at the work she had completed. He found himself stuck in an ugly middle position. Towards the end of the story, we get a glimpse of the marital tension between Jack and Clare. Though Jack watched his wife work, he did not help her. He felt that both of them were caged together. He did not want to speak to her, work with her, or touch her.

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