Parent-Child Relationships in “Tenth of December”

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.

4 thoughts on “Parent-Child Relationships in “Tenth of December”

  1. Rohan W

    I really liked your post especially looking at the relationship of Eber and Allen. I’m not sure if Robin’s relationship with his mother is really healthy but I agree that even though parents and upbringing influence children, children can still break free to make their own choices.

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  2. Sam B.

    I really like how you compared and contrasted the two different relationships. I also think that it is important to note that a relationship can look healthy on the outside but can be toxic on the inside and that may be what Robin’s relationship with his mother is like. But nevertheless, I very much agree that parents’ behavior during childhood can influence the child’s behavior when they grow up.

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  3. Isabelle J.

    I didn’t spend much time considering how the parent-child relationship theme influenced this story so much but now that you mentioned it I feel like Eber and Robin almost have a parent-child relationship in the sense that they both feel responsible for each other. For Eber, who fears failing as a parent, saving Robin was an especially sobering moment for him.

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  4. KYLIE HOUGHTON

    I enjoyed reading your take on the relationship between the parent and child in Tenth of December. I think it’s interesting and important to note the different parent/child dynamics we have read about so far this year. When I think of a coming of age story like 202 Checkmates and the father-daughter relationship they had I can’t help but compare it to the parent/child relationship in the Tenth of December. I wonder how the parents had a different effect on their children and how different these two people were raised.

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