A Review of Bel Kaufman's Story 'Sunday in the Park'

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Originally published in 1985, Bel Kaufman's haunting short story Sunday in the Park presents a seemingly innocent and mundane tale of children playing under the watchful eyes of their parents, while exposing the undercurrents of intense emotion which course through every human interaction. Beginning with an anonymous mother and her husband Morton enjoying a picturesque day in the park, along with their toddler son Larry, Kaufman's story immediately jars the reader's sense of expectation by employing a set of contrasting images. By initially describing her husband by observing that "Morton was so city­pale, cooped up all week inside the gray factorylike university" (Kaufman), the mother figure signals a preexisting sense of dissatisfaction with him that soon manifests itself through the confrontation to come. When the young bully begins taunting Larry, silently throwing sand in his hair while menacing both son and mother, Morton is finally forced to intervene and he "put his Times down carefully on his lap and turned his fine, lean face toward the man, smiling the shy, apologetic smile he might have offered a student in pointing out an error in his thinking" (Kaufman). The ensuing standoff between the mild mannered Morton and the father of his son's tormentor is depicted in agonizing fashion by Kaufman, who captures the minutiae of typical human behavior, and the greater symbolism behind those actions, through her sharp and incisive prose. When Morton is ultimately

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