"The Charmer" by Budge Wilson is a short story about a Canadian family that finds misfortune and conflict within their lives. Conflict being the predominant theme which directly affects all the participants in the family. The story is written in third person and narrated from the young girl Winifred's point of view. Budge Wilson uses Zack's smothered childhood, charming personality and irresponsible behaviour to create emotional conflict between members of the family.
Growing up as a happy and popular young man, Zack creates himself a perfect reputation which left room for love and smothering from his mother and two sisters. His mother and sisters love him very much and show this love by being at his every beckoning. Winifred is no exception; the love for Zack is shown by the extraction, "How be you wash my bike for me, Pose, Love?" I would be halfway to the kitchen for bucket and rags before he stopped speaking. [And] I was Zachary's willing slave. Slavery in fact, was a vogue in our house." (Wilson, 101). Zack from a very young age is overwhelmed with love and good deeds sent in his direction.
He takes advantage of these kind gestures and never really appreciates what was being done for him. This lack of appreciation and constant smothering is noticed by his father at later stages in the story and creates a level of conflict ion between them throughout the story. His father makes the mistake of not saying anything about his disagreement with the way Zack is treated and allows the conflict to continue. "Even Dad took a long time to wake up. You wouldn't think a fourteen - or sixteen-year-old-boy could hoodwink a father... [And] Dad would just leave the room and go out to his work shed and sit and rock and rock in that old chair of his." (Wilson, 103).
His father new there was a problem but did not act on it until the situation reached its climax which resulted in Zack leaving home. The problem is allowed to escalate at the time. The father does not play as big of a role in Zack's life. Due to mothers love for Zack she allows him to get away with a lot of things that most mothers would not. One day she baked a cake for the church bazaar and left a sign warning nobody to eat it. She came home to find a slice gone and realised it was Zack that took the slice.
Then my mother would laugh, we'd all laugh, and Mom would mix up the batter for the new cake, a smile playing upon her lips. "Go ahead!" she'd say, with a fake sigh. "Have another piece. You certainly are the limit!" (Wilson, 102).
From this young age Zack is taught that he could do something knowing he should not and stand a very good chance of getting away with it. This lack of discipline from his parents sparks a level of irresponsibility into his perfect reputation and the struggle for Zack begins. Zack is known by his piers, family and friends as a charming boy; to begin with this helps Zack along in life, but soon enough the conflict of all his false charm catches up to him. He finds happiness in being able to show off his charisma and unique personality. His character makes it very easy for people to love him. His sisters from a young age always loved and idolized him.
"At that age I felt something more intense. I was bewitched. My heart lay open and eager. He could take it and me, and do with us what he would." (Wilson, 101). The way he could open up people's hearts does not directly relate to the conflict he created. It is a magical talent he possesses, but when his family's emotions come into play he manages to take their hearts in his hand, and then grasp, grip and break them.
He takes advantage of his ability to charm his family; just like the way he was taught to take advantage of his sisters and his mother's smothering. He uses his charm to get himself out of trouble. "My mother, my queen!" he might say. "How could someone with any taste buds at all ignore the creation of so great a cook? The master cook of the whole of this city!" The he would give her one of his special bear hugs.
Or he might get down on one or both of his knees. "Forgive me, duchess. [And] "Thank you, my angel." She'd put her head on one side with that adoring look of hers, and say, "Be off with you! You " re a real devil!" (Wilson, 102). His creative use of words and constant flattery could fool his family into forgiveness.
This method of getting people's gratitude did not last forever as eventually his era came to an end when his loved ones learnt to see past his charm. His constant apologies are another form of his charm. "Zack delivered apologies that would have bought tears to a preacher's eyes." (Wilson, 103). This caption shows he is able to continue to get away with whatever he wanted.
His younger sister is the first to see through Zack's falseness and it is shown by the line: "The kind of dramatic repentance has a lot more clout than simple, everyday good behaviour, and he really knew how to bring it off." (Wilson, 103). The extract shows Winnifred's honest opinion of Zack and how he uses his charm to get along in life keeping everybody happy, whilst continuing to misbehave. The charm brings happiness to the house but after Zack begins to exploit his skill the conflict starts up and so did his irresponsibility. Zack's ability to block out others to get what he wants becomes very obvious later on in the short story.
It becomes apparent through the form of lack of consideration towards his loves ones. He does what he wants at the time and does not consider others. It is first noticed when he becomes a teenager and starts to act out of line. Zack lied over trifles, and periodically stole money out of wallets that where left lying around. He started smoking at thirteen, and was into the liquor cabinet by fourteen. At sixteen, he smashed up our car one night after a poker party.
Once he dumped Dad's red tool box, tools and all, in the river, during one of his rages." (Wilson, 103) This act of mis behaviour was not normal behaviour for a young boy of his age. These where the first signs of Zack acting recklessly and it leads to an uncomfortable atmosphere, within the household. He does not stop here at destroying materialistic objects, he moves onto acting irresponsibly with people's emotions. His youngest sister becomes terminally ill with leukemia. For any family this illness would be a horrible milestone to overcome. Zack does not help at all by acting inappropriately.
He visits her once, whilst she sat in the hospital die ing. But apart from that, he never once visited her during those last awful six weeks in hospital. He was on a bender, day after day, or else he'd sober up enough to spend a week trying to win liquor money at the poker table. [And] Zack lost a job and got another and then lost that one, too. He was forever taking off in the family car, just as we were needing to go to the hospital. (Wilson, 104).
This act of carelessness is a prime example of how he stops caring for others and focuses in on what he wants which unfortunately is to consume alcohol and gamble his life away. The seriousness of his irresponsibleness continues and once again nothing is done to stop him until the day comes that Lizzie his youngest sister dies from her disease. He is given the choice by his father to be one of their hired servants like he kept implying he would or he is to leave. Many awkward moments go by and he makes his decision to leave. In about half an hour, he came down the stairs carrying two suitcases. He stopped at the bottom, and then went over and touched Mom on the shoulder.
That's all. Then he just walked out the door without a word. (Wilson, 107). The decision to walk out on his family and never come back was bold but one of coward.
He makes a decision based on his own well being and does not take his family's emotions into consideration. He is left with the guilt of abandoning his ill sister and ironically ends up losing his whole family due to his hasty actions. Zack believed he could make up for his irresponsible behaviour by charming his loved ones into denial, to begin with his method worked and he was smothered with love and gratitude. Once the charm warred off and his family saw through his ways, his true intentions became apparent; the decision was made by his father that his intentions where not worthy of their household. His mistakes and general falseness created enough problems to break down his family and drive his mother senile..