Feed on

The phrase that is the title of Elizabeth McCracken’s story, “Some have entertained angels, unaware”, sounds grand and promising. By the time the dad says it on page 52, it sounds like an excuse. After not having seen his children for years, after leaving them in a house full of drifters, he tells them that his life has been about “hospitality. Being nice to the downtrodden” (52). Clearly it hasn’t been about loving and raising his children. What is the dad’s motivation, and how does McCracken communicate it?

McCracken starts out the story by saying “my parents were not handy people” (23), and then later described “Dad in the front hall, turning slowly, surrounded by living things, knowing that he could fix none of them” (32-33). It sounds as if the dad was trying to be nice to people by inviting them into his house, but then he got overwhelmed by all of the damage that he felt compelled to try and heal but couldn’t. That could be why he left – but then why leave his children?

When the mom died, the dad said that she had “bad plumbing, faulty wiring. Beyond repair” (24), which sounds distant and unemotional. Was he hiding intense pain? The only time we really see emotion from him is when the boarders, the narrator, and Jackie ask for a family story and he says angrily “‘I don’t own any, okay? The family tree… begins with me'” (29). Then on page 31, he says “do I look like I’m in charge… does any of this look like it belongs to me?”, and we get the sense that he feels little attachment to his own children.

These are just some thoughts that got me started thinking about how McCracken crafted this story.

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