“THE KITTEN” BY RICHARD WRIGHT
Plot Summary: This is a story of a boy who tries to get even with his father. The child resents his father’s authority for it is not based on a relationship of trust and communication. The father, a night porter, must sleep during the day, and therefore cannot spend much time with his son. The son feels impotent before his father’s (perceived) harsh discipline. The boy, therefore, devises a plan which will transfer impotence to the father. When told to “quiet” a kitten, the son takes his father’s words, “kill the damn thing!” literally. What follows is the impotence of the father with regard to this action, the mother’s take-over in the role of punisher/advisor, and the boy’s . resultant experience of guilt
Criticism. (Key Elements: point of view, conflict, setting)
“The Kitten” is not exactly a short story. It is a chapter from Slack Boy. Yet it works well as a short story, and is notable for its impact. Said to be autobiographical, it depicts Wright’s rage as a youngster. Wright remembers and clearly relates the anger directed toward his “remote”, “alien”, and frightening father. Yet, one must note that the story is told from a distance of time; Wright, as an adult, completes the picture.Those who read this story can understand the father’s and mother’s motivations as well as those of the son. The story is disturbing because the primary conflict between father and son is not resolved. This perhaps provides the true impact of the story. Though the setting is briefly sketched, the negative impact of society on all members of this family is clearly stated.