Welding with children is one of the The Best American Short Stories written by Tim Gautreaux. The story begins with the main character Bruton, who’s single-handedly taking care of his four grandchildren, each left by his four unmarried daughters. Throughout the whole book, the thematic idea of beginning afresh is prevalently portrayed through a series of action carried out by the protagonist. The themes of the story are also portrayed through literary devices such as symbolism, conflicts and characterization as the plot progresses.
Gautreaux has Bruton to speak in the first person of the entire story, he is the narrator but also represents the voice of the writer. Through the narrator’s point of view, Gautreaux is able to convey his message to the audience in a more direct and effective manner. Throughout the entire story, Bruton is constantly trying to build his grandchildren a better life, this motivation is all due to the fact that his daughters are pregnant without marriage, shows that his parenting skills have suffered, and he is embarrassed with how he raised his four daughters in the past. He considers himself as a failure to educate his girls like a father.
At the very beginning of the story, Bruton shows his carefree attitude on things that are considered important to most people. After dropping out of college in his first semester, he states, ” I may have flunked out that semester, but I got my money’s worth learning about people that don’t have hearts no bigger than birds shot” It is obviously the voice of a man who has had all the best intentions, but who has been careless about his parenting, just as he has been careless about what litters his yard.
Furthermore, symbolic meaning has played an important role when the author is conveying imagery and meaning. For example, the abandonment of both the yard and the children symbolizes failure in accomplishing in life and receiving quality education. The children were mostly learning through watching television, ‘Freddy says something that indicates to be a curse word’ as a result of being neglected parents. Another important symbol used in the story is the bible, when he started the conversation regarding bible “Does your mammas ever talk to y’all about, you know, God?” the comic responses from the children made him realize that they are all hopeless ignorant towards religion, and thus morality. Bruton therefore views the bible as the symbol of a start over, to get a second chance to redeem what he has not done right with his daughters. He wants to educate his grandchildren better by reading them stories from bible, welding himself with the children and also educating them for a better character in life.
The tension of the story increases at a point where a conflicts occurs between Mr. Fordlyson and Bruton, when Mr.Fordlyson insulted his car as bastardmobile. However, he ends up with Mr. Fordlyson, who calmly justifies his mean name calling from their previous meeting. Instead of letting his emotions take over, Bruton is rational. He asks Mr. Fordlyson for help. “I need your help, not your meanness.” The way of resolving this conflicts has shown the audience a visible personal growth in Bruton, at this point he has shown some changes and taking actions to better parenting his grandchildren. Such development and resolution makes Bruton a dynamic and heroic character.
In conclusion, the annotation of babysitting his grandchildren appeared to be a simple task, however, deep down Gautreaux is trying to develop the characterization of Bruton through the connotation of seeing the opportunity to redeem the consequences of poor parenting for both generations. The story ends with idyllic image dialogue of that the baby Nu-Nu swing like some angelic innocent which makes a contrast to the opening to the novel, conveys a strong sense of hoping a better life for his grandchildren.