Once again - presents beneath it ablaze Walls again uses...

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Once again, fire emerges as a metaphor for the family's problems, and Walls provides  further insight into Dad's character. In these sections, Dad's obstinate nature causes  both delight and problems. First, Dad's refusal to accept society's attitude toward wild  animals as things to be controlled, leads to a magical moment for Jeannette when she  gets to touch a captive cheetah. The zoo scene shows that Dad's faith in himself can  indeed lead him to do some of the extraordinary things he imagines. However, his  obstinacy does not always yield such positive results, as his behavior at midnight Mass  depicts. Dad, fueled by copious amounts of alcohol, is unable to observe the church  service quietly. His stubborn behavior results in a horrible Christmas for the Walls family:  not only do they get kicked out of church, but he sets their Christmas tree and the 
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Unformatted text preview: presents beneath it ablaze. Walls again uses fire as both a literal and metaphorically destructive image. Recall the other fires the family has experienced: Jeannette's burns, the hotel fire in San Francisco, and Jeannette and Brian's laboratory fire. While the family survived those fires, each one left a different kind of emotional (and in Jeannette's case, physical) scar. In the Christmas fire, the entire family is scarred — not by the fire itself, but by Dad's behavior. Mom is unable to leave him; the kids are unable to change the situation. Therefore, the fire works as a symbol of the unending cycle of poverty and disappointment the family undergoes; as soon as something positive happens, it is dashed by some sort of disaster — in this case, Dad....
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