The Butcher Bird

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 11th grade August 2001

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People often have a desire or need for power and control, the way people go about to achieve this determines if they are successful. In the short story "Butcher Bird" written by Wallace Stegner, Mr. Garfield won the respect of his peers by engaging in the conversation and acting polite and courteous to his wife and guests. On the other hand Harry lost his power and control by being negative, stubborn and cruel. Not only did Harry lose the respect of his peers he also lost respect from his son. Individuals gain power and control through the respect and admiration of their peers.

Husbands often believe they have to have total control over their wives and children to feel comfortable with themselves. This is common with the manner Harry treats his family. Harry dictates the atmosphere of his house and the way his family acts depending on how he feels.

If it is "rain(ing) everything would be fine, (Harry) would hum under his breath getting breakfast, maybe let (Sonny) drive the stoneboat or ride the mare down to the Larsen's for mail". Although "if it was hot wind (Sonny and Harry's wife) (would) have to walk soft and speak softer and it would (not) be any fun". Not only does Harry control his family in his own house but he brings this attitude into the homes of others. When Sonny is inspecting the gramophone in the Garfield's house by "wiggling the big horn to see if it was loose or screwed in" Harry recognized that Sonny was enjoying himself so he "warned (him) sharply to keep his hands off". This act of control illustrates the amount of insecurity that Harry possesses which paints a clear picture of why he has this immense need for control and power.