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In the poem, My Old Man, by Charles Bukowski, the speaker is a disturbed man. At only sixteen years old, he is already into drinking alcohol as a means of coping with depression and abusive father. Apparently, the narrator and his father have a severed relationship and are constantly in conflict over issues such as alcohol abuse, physical abuse, and irresponsibility. However, in a twist, the difficult relationship becomes lighter when the father reads one of the many stories written by the depressed narrator. The son is struggling to understand the sudden change of heart and cannot immediately know the significance of that story to his father. Therefore, this paper will attempt to explain that the story of the rich man and a horse meant being overcome by a source of happiness that turns into frustration that is threatening to completely destroy his relationship with a son he should love. The reading the story prompted the father and son to become momentarily closer than they have ever been because he could relate his severed relationship with the son to the rich man and the horse.
The story of the rich man and horse
From the reaction of the narrator’s father, the story about the rich man and horse seems to relate his life to the narrative that was meant to mock him. In the eyes of the narrator’s father, the rich man could mean a one happy family that shared everything and had a direction. The happy family was held by the bond of joy as a result of easy times and everything was prospering as anticipated. The father was very happy at that time to control and head this happy family as the provider and protector. The horse could mean the source of joy for the happy family who could do anything to ensure that the source of livelihood is protected. The father of the narrator might have really tried to ensure that the source of livelihood for his happy family was protected from any force that might have wanted to conspire against it. Along the way, the horse turned into a killer and did not bother about the sacrifice its rich owner had gone through to provide the best care. In the case of the narrator’s father, the great depression was the horse that killed all his ambitions and hopes, despite having tried his best to work hard and protect his source of livelihood.
Just like the rich man in Henry’s story, the father of the narrator was scared that his son would become his killer as was the case of the horse that killed its master. As a mean of coping with the stress accompanied by such down swing, the father of the narrator resorts to alcoholism and excessive aggression. The violent behavior is too much and the mother of the narrator is worried for her son. It seems the two men in the house could not look each other in the eye and preferred not to share the same room. The son is equally stressed by this anonymity between himself and the person who is supposed to be his role model. The protector has turned into the tormentor whose drunkard nature overtakes his responsibility of raising the young man. Basically, the tension between son and the father is building and there seems to exist nothing that could reverse this worrying trend.
The father of the narrator had to live through the most trying time as a result of losing his job that he used to cherish and trust to take care of his family. The son that he had once made happy and able to take care of would one day turn into an enemy who might end up taking his life. It seems the father of the narrator could relate his own predicament to that of the rich man and the unappreciative horse that ended up killing the master. In the story, the father of the narrator could identify himself with the story of how his own blood might turn violent like the horse and be responsible for demise. The story of his young son appeared to have aroused fear in his life and he had to find a middle ground for avoiding the same fate as the rich man in the hands of his horse. This deep fear informed the sudden change of heart by the old man towards his teenage son. As a survival strategy, the father of the narrator decided to tone down his hunger to avoid facing the same wrath as the owner of the beloved horse-turned-killer.
Reasons for temporary closeness
From reading the story written by Henry, the narrator’s father was prompted to momentarily become closer to the son than they had ever been because it provided a relief from self blame and excuse for the aggressive nature. In fact, the father and son become a little bit closer because the old man realized that the depression was not only affecting him, but also his son. The father had to make a choice between fighting the son over the story and accepting that the great depression was taking a toll on the entire family. The father must have realized that his son is becoming wiser and could relate the sad predicaments facing the family to the poverty horse that ‘killed’ his father. The father must have thought of the possibility of his perceived enemy cum son being caught in the same melee and neither could escape. The closeness between the narrator and father could have been catalyzed by the mutual feeling of being in the same situation that requires some friendship, even if the temporary reprieve was inspired by falsehood of sharing similar predicament.
In summary, the father of the narrator decided to soften his ingressiveness towards the son after reading his story about a rich man and a horse that he loved. However, the horse ended up killing its master. In the same way, the father of the narrator is afraid that the son would eventually kill him if he continues being too harsh and critical of the young man. Therefore, the father had to turn the fear into a momentary reprieve in the difficult relationship as a survival mechanism aimed at avoiding the fate of the rich man who dies from the wounds inflicted by his beloved horse. The improved relationship could have also been inspired by the feeling of sharing mutual distress as a result of the depression. Therefore, the old man had to devise a means of arresting the tension between them through temporal closeness.