A look at the short story, Tiny, Smiling Daddy, Mary Gaitskill reflects on some thematic concerns. She depicts a father who is apparently surprised at the bold step the daughter has made to go against what he perceives as an omen and shameful. Being featured in a magazine is something that takes the man in the story by surprise, not for the mere reason of being in the magazine but the reason behind her being in the magazine. This is no pleasure so to speak. The novel sets the stage by the father in the story having a reflection of the daughter whom he hardly recognizes anymore based on the changes and transformation she has undergone.
The story is an interesting one in the sense that it presents a paradox of phenomena. There is an apparent clash of generational change, lifestyles, and values. There is the group of parents who are religiously observant and tied to the ideals of the society by trying to raise their children in the right manner, only to end up with surprises, for example, ending up having a self-confessed lesbian. This begs the question as to the suitability of the title of the novel, Tiny, Smiling Daddy.
The story talks about a father who has struggled with the fact that his daughter is a lesbian and has long struggled to keep it under the table for fear of shame and victimization. His problem comes when the daughter goes public about her sexuality and points to the struggles and misunderstanding between him and the daughter over the same. The novel goes ahead to present the fathers sense of victimhood which is rather unwarranted. The girl, albeit unjustified, goes ahead to depict the father as the one with wayward behavior and often exhibited petulance and always on the defensive side.
Gaitskill also talks of the stereotype that characterizes the society. Through the novel, she notes how people are segregated against or stereotyped based on their life choices. The rejection of Daddys daughter evidently plays out and the manner in which she gets half-acceptance, meaning that this kind of acceptance is pegged on certain conditions. The tiny daddy plays his role, and this novel just encourages all and sundry that there is always that single individual who will always have our backs.
The great milestone made by this story is that it provokes the mind and even cultivates some sense of empathy for the emotional villain, the homophobe who has openly dejected the daughter out of their abode and at the same time views her as a monster by her sexuality.
It is apparent that Stew, the daddy in this poem, suffers from past nostalgic feelings and memories of his very own childhood days, the clear incomprehension plus the sense of being isolated from everyone in his circle. This is something every reader can sympathize with and feel the present situation of the villain in the novel.
The Gaitskill through her novel tries to speak to the world how transformation plays a prominent role in evolution and helps shape awareness among individuals of their vulnerabilities that end up defining the sense of who one is and why they are so. The novel also brings out how repugnance gives way to some form of measured empathy, in that, as the story wraps up, Stew is isolated and gets the chance to look at his sense of alienation and anxiety will last, albeit relentlessly.
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