English 145, Section 42
June 8, 2009
“Don’t judge a book by its cover,” was a quote I learned and was taught to apply
since grade school. I always thought it was only relevant to books, and was a tactic of my
teachers to get my classmates and I to read books beyond their shiny covers. It wasn’t
until later that I discovered the quote had a deeper meaning of being open to the world
Thus, in Roxana Robinson’s short story, “Mr. Sumarsono,” Susan, the
narrator from Trenton, New Jersey, her sister Kate and mother host Mr. Sumarsono, an
Indonesian Diplomat from the United Nations. During his stay, Susan becomes more
tolerant with her family. Therefore, through the use of characters, setting, and vivid
imagery, Robinson is able to illustrate the importance of intellectual empathy.
Susan is embarrassed and annoyed by her mother’s uncharacteristic actions during
Mr. Sumarsono’s visit. The embarrassment starts when her mother, Mrs. Riordan shouts
for Mr. Sumarsono’s attention, and bombards him with loaded questions. In addition,
Susan’s feelings of frustration heighten at dinner when she finds her mother bathed, and
wearing a pink dress. In the dining room, Susan was “in the presence of something
powerful and alien” (Robinson 37) because her mom planned to use the special plates
provided by their grandmother, and ordered her to set up wine glasses. Therefore, Susan
lacks breadth due to her lack of empathy.
She has been overtly focused on her own
thoughts, and is unable to see her mother’s genuine intentions of just trying to be a good
host for their visitor.