The short story discussed in this essay is The Watcher which is written by Guy Vanderhaeghe. The story focuses on the learning experiences of the narrator, Charlie, who is an eleven-year-old boy stuck on his Grandma s farm. Through Charlie s natural ability to observe, experiences with sex, violence, and power Charlie transforms him from being a watcher to a participant in the adult world surrounding him.
At the beginning of the story, Charlie lives at home and is strictly an observer of the world around him I suppose it was having a bad chest that turned me into an observer, a watcher, at an early age (282). Since Charlie was in a constant state of illness his mother tended to baby him a lot. It also meant that Charlie stayed at home and had little to occupy his mind other than listening to his mother s gossip. His skill of observing allowed him glances into an adult world of conventional miseries and scandals (283).
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These observations were limited to Charlie s understanding, but his skill of spying on others was perfected. Despite his glimpses into the adult world around him, Charlie remained just an innocent observer. This begins to change when he is shipped off to his Grandma s and forced to live there. Up until Evelyn and Thompson arrive at Grandma Bradley s, Charlie s encounters with the adult world are limited to his mother s living room. Charlie sees adults interacting, but never gets involved.
Upon the arrival of Thompson and Evelyn, there begins a power struggle between Grandma and Thompson over Evelyn. As the conflict between Thompson and Grandma Bradley escalates, Charlie begins to witness several different facets of the adult world. Since Charlie was all but ignored by his grandmother, he could roam free around the farm.
This allows him to witness Thompson s abuse of Evelyn. He sees Thompson striking awkwardly at her exposed buttocks and thighs with the flat of his hand (293). Charlie interprets the scene as some kind of retribution rather than violence. He does recognize that Thompson gains power over Evelyn by violence and the strength he has over her. As the battle between Grandma and Thompson escalates, Charlie discovers that he likes the excitement of the conflict.
His Grandma makes a comment about Thompson not being smart enough to lift the toilet seat when he pees (294). Charlie decides to stir the pot: After hearing that, I took to leaving a few conspicuous droplets of my own as a matter of course on each visit. Every little bit might help things along. (294). This is proof that Charlie knows he can impact the conflict between Grandma and Thompson.
Charlie s next mature experience takes place when he witness s Thompson and Evelyn having sex. His understanding of what he sees is limited, but Charlie seems to lose respect for Thompson seeing him look stupider and weaker than any human being [he] had ever seen (295). Charlie is learning that adults are not as great as they make out to be.
The awareness that adults are not all-powerful carries over to Charlie s own actions. Charlie s encounters with sex and violence lead him to his final confrontation with Stanley the rooster. As anxiety builds up in the adults around him, Charlie finds himself feeling the same tension. With no one but the rooster to interact with, Charlie finds himself feeling the intoxication of power (297) as he tries to pet Stanley. Images of the bruises on [his] aunt s legs; Thompson s face drained of life the tendons of his neck stark and rigid with anticipation (298) come into Charlie s head as he abuses the bird. With this act of aggression, Charlie is displaying his craving to control someone else other than himself.
He enjoys the feeling of power over another creature and becomes consumed by it, to the point that he murders Stanley. Charlie seems to get pleasure by killing the rooster. The feelings of power and pleasure carry over when Charlie witnesses Thompson s beating but fails to say anything about it. With this final conscious decision, Charlie becomes a player and no longer a watcher (306). Charlie learns that he can manipulate, and control others by using his strength and mental capacity.
The results of Charlie s experiences with sex, power, and violence all become intertwined with each other to the point that Charlie can not distinguish one from the other. The consequence of Charlie s encounters with these incidents is a mix of pleasure with power and violence. Charlie learns that he can benefit himself and gain pleasure by having power over others. With these experiences, Charlie transforms from a watcher to a person who is capable of participating in the power struggle between adults.