In "Over the River and through the Wood" by John O'Hara, a widowed man's family is unhappy with him because of his unchaste past. Mr. Winfield is taking the first step to better his relationship with his family by making a trip to his daughter's house for the first time in 15 years. His youthful and immoral past makes it difficult for him to earn respect from his family.
When Mr. Winfield is in the car with Sheila and her two friends, he is on his best behavior. Sheila and her friends disregard Mr. Winfeld and barely acknowledge his presence. Miss Farnsworth looks at Mr. Winfield as he gets in the car " almost as though she were making a point of not helping him". There is obvious tension between him and Sheila because Mr. Winfield speaks scarcely and is making every effort to not upset her.
When he cannot get the window crank started, he offers Sheila "shamed apologies". When Mr. Winfield slips on the driveway, rather than being concerned about his well being, Sheila and her friends are worried that her mother, Mary, will see and think they are responsible for his fall. This shows that Sheila does not truly care or love her grandfather. Mary's maid, Ula, does not even pretend to like Mr. Winfield. When she first sets eyes on him she says " Ugh. Oh. It's you". Mr. Winfield and his daughter exchange a "travesty of a kiss they both knew so well". If a father and daughter must fake the joy they get out of kissing, there is no real love between them. Mr. Winfield clearly does not have a good relationship with any characters in the story.
Sheila offers Mr. Winfield tea, hot chocolate, and coffee to warm him up rather than an alcoholic beverage. She comments, "you could have a drink if you wanted it, but you're on the wagon", implying that he is a former alcoholic.
Mr. Winfield recollects his son-in-law offering to buy his house. Mr. Winfield sold it to him in order to get himself out of debt and have a source of income. His son-in-law also offered to give Mr. Winfield a job that might have it fixed so that he could go to London, where his mistress resided. This shows that Mr. Winfield was too irresponsible to take care of his own financial needs.
When Mary is showing Miss Farnsworth her room, she has already told her something about Mr. Winfield. This insinuates that she has forewarned her about his past.
As Mr. Winfield begins to drink his hot chocolate, he agrees with how Mary said hot chocolate is better than a drink. He concentrates on how good the hot chocolate tastes; it is "good and warming". He even goes on to think that sharing his hot chocolate with Miss Farnsworth would be an inviting gesture. He believes that she is a very interesting person, when in reality he knows nothing more than her name. He is trying to make some good out of his stay at his daughter's house, even if he must pretend. Mr. Winfield then goes so far to making himself believe that Miss Farnsworth replies "Come in" after he knocks on her door when she really says "In a minute". By walking in on Miss Farnsworth in the nude, it appears as though Mr. Winfield did so on purpose. This destroys any chances for Mr. Winfield to reunite with his family.
Unlike Mary, most children like to keep their elderly parents close by. Mr. Winfield treated his wife so poorly; his daughter could not bear to have him around.
Mr. Winfield's mistress went back to London because he did not have the guts to divorce his wife; this shows how cowardly Mr. Winfield was. By being irresponsible and disloyal to his wife, Mr. Winfield is disgusted by his family. In order to make amends with his daughter and granddaughter, Mr. Winfield must make up for his sins in the past by being 'good' now. He is so determined to make things better; he makes himself believe Miss Farnsworth would like him to come into her room so that he does not annoy her by knocking once again.
As a youth, one may participate in immoral acts, not thinking ahead into their future. These acts determine how well the rest of their life goes and the kind of relationship they will have with the closest people in their lives. The consequences of these acts will make it hard for one to earn respect and love from their family. An innocent mistake will not be excused. The individual must be very careful of everything they do because they will be watched with extra care.