Within George Saunders’ short story, “Tenth of December,” contrasting parent-child relationships are depicted.
On one side of the coin is Robin and his mother. Robin is an imaginative young boy conjures up wild stories of “Netherworlders,” and heroism. Robin describes his mother as a “good egg” who’s always been there for him, and is occasionally overprotective. In school, Robin is often bullied, and is constantly teased. Though this bullying is sometimes based upon his “manner of speaking,” it is also due to his mother’s “style faux pas.” Robin’s mother has no idea of this bullying, and Robin prefers to keep it like this.
In a way, mother and child are sheltering each other: Robin is sheltering his mother from seeing how horribly he is being treated, while Robin’s mother is attempting to shelter him from “dangerous situations” (e.g. using a stapler).
Despite this sheltering, their relationship is extremely healthy. They are both achieving mutual recognition, and are extremely loving towards each other.
On the other side of the coin is Eber and Allen. After Eber’s biological father abandoned him, his mother remarried to Allen. At first, Allen and Eber’s relationship was healthy. Allen was very encouraging of Eber’s ambitions, and Eber describes Allen as the “kindest man ever.” Then, Allen became ill, and began to change into “THAT.” He was verbally abusive to Eber and his mother, despite both of them trying to help him through his illness. Still, regardless of all of this, Eber loves Allen.
Years later, Eber develops cancer, and is terrified of becoming like Allen. So much so that he decides to commit suicide. He believes that a father is someone who “eases the burdens of those he loves,” and feels that by committing suicide, he is preventing himself from being “THAT.”
This short story is a perfect example of how our upbringing and parents can dictate our personality and decisions. It is also an example of how we do not have to become our parents if we do not wish to. At the end of the story, Eber is prevented from committing suicide, and realizes that he was being “cruel” and “selfish” by attempting to do so.
“Tenth of December” is a beautiful, hopeful story, and is the perfect ending to Saunders’ short story collection.