Should Wizard Hit Mommy?

by

John Updike

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Jack Character Analysis

The protagonist of the story, Jack is a married man living with his pregnant wife Clare, their four-year-old daughter Jo, and their two-year-old son, Bobby. Uninspired by and disillusioned with the responsibilities of family life, Jack uses the stale ritual of telling his daughter a bedtime story to avoid helping his wife re-paint their living room to prepare for the arrival of their third child. A talented storyteller, Jack takes pride in creating engrossing stories for Jo even though he is quickly running out of fresh ideas. Each story concerns an animal named Roger who has a problem that is solved by the story’s end. Much like Jack’s life, the stories follow a strict and unchallenging pattern and contain hallmarks of domesticity: each story begins with Roger at home with his mother and end with his father’s return from work on the train each night for supper. In telling the stories, Jack is able to indulge his gift for creating suspense and his love of language, even when the references go over Jo’s head. Jack crafts Roger Skunk in his own image: a skunk who is isolated from other animals much like Jack was as a young boy. Roger is lonely because of his smell, which he is ultimately unable to change out of a sense of duty to his mother. Though Jo is unaware, Jack is channeling his frustration in his marriage into the story, and becomes increasingly upset when Jo contradicts him, as it reminds him of Clare. Ultimately, Jack is unable to tell a story that engrosses Jo, who is furious that Roger Skunk must keep his original foul smell. Jo insists that Jack tell her a story in which Roger’s mother is physically punished for contributing to Roger’s isolation and unhappiness. Jack is shocked to see Jo’s animosity towards the mother figure in the story because it reflects his own animosity towards Clare and their life together: a life in which Jack feels increasingly trapped and has come to resent Clare not as his partner in the struggle, but as his principle tormenter.

Jack Quotes in Should Wizard Hit Mommy?

The Should Wizard Hit Mommy? quotes below are all either spoken by Jack or refer to Jack. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Marriage, Family, and Misogyny Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Random House edition of Should Wizard Hit Mommy? published in 1962.
“Should Wizard Hit Mommy?” Quotes

The little girl (not so little anymore; the bumps her feet made under the covers were halfway down the bed, their big double bed that they let her be in for naps and when she was sick) had at last arranged herself, and from the way her fat face deep in the pillow shone in the sunlight sifting through the drawn shades, it did not seem fantastic that something magic would occur, and she would take her nap like an infant of two.

Related Characters: Jack, Jo
Page Number: 75
Explanation and Analysis:

Sitting on the bed beside her, Jack felt the covers tug as her legs switched tensely. He was pleased with this moment—he was telling her something true, something she must know—and had no wish to hurry on. But downstairs a chair scraped, and he realized he must get down to help Clare paint the living room woodwork.

Related Characters: Jack, Jo, Clare
Related Symbols: The House
Page Number: 76
Explanation and Analysis:

“Are magic spells real?” This was a new phase, just this last month, a reality phase. When he told her spiders eat bugs, she turned to her mother and asked, “Do they really? and when Clare told her God was in the sky and all around them, she turned to her father, and insisted, with a sly yet eager smile, “Is He really?”

Related Characters: Jo (speaker), Jack, The Wizard
Page Number: 77
Explanation and Analysis:

The wizard's voice was one of Jack's own favorite effects; he did it by scrunching up his face and somehow whining through his eyes, which felt for the interval rheumy. He felt being an old man suited him.

Related Characters: Jack, Jo, The Wizard
Page Number: 77
Explanation and Analysis:

He paused as a rapt expression widened out from his daughter's nostrils, forcing her eyebrows up and her lower lip down in a wide noiseless grin, an expression in which Jack was startled to recognize his wife feigning pleasure at cocktail parties.

Related Characters: Jack, Jo
Page Number: 78
Explanation and Analysis:

Jack didn't like women when they took anything for granted; he liked them apprehensive, hanging on his words.

Related Characters: Jack
Page Number: 80
Explanation and Analysis:

“No,” Jo said, and put her hand out to touch his lips, yet even in her agitation did not quite dare to stop the source of truth.

Related Characters: Jo (speaker), Jack
Related Symbols: Roger’s Smell
Page Number: 80
Explanation and Analysis:

“Tomorrow, I want you to tell me the story that that wizard took that magic wand and hit that mommy”—her plump arms chopped fiercely—“right over the head.”

Related Characters: Jo (speaker), Jack
Page Number: 82
Explanation and Analysis:

The woodwork, a cage of moldings and rails and baseboards all around them, was half old tan and half new ivory and he felt caught in an ugly middle position, and though he as well felt his wife's presence in the cage with him, he did not want to speak with her, work with her, touch her, anything.

Related Characters: Jack, Clare
Related Symbols: The House
Page Number: 82
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Should Wizard Hit Mommy? LitChart as a printable PDF.
Should Wizard Hit Mommy? PDF

Jack Character Timeline in Should Wizard Hit Mommy?

The timeline below shows where the character Jack appears in Should Wizard Hit Mommy?. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
“Should Wizard Hit Mommy?”
Marriage, Family, and Misogyny Theme Icon
Growing Up and Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
Storytelling and Control Theme Icon
Every evening and before her Saturday naps, Jack tells his daughter Jo a bedtime story. The ritual has been going on since Jo... (full context)
Growing Up and Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
Jack is especially tired of the story time ritual because he has run out of ideas... (full context)
Marriage, Family, and Misogyny Theme Icon
Duty, Conformity, and Fitting In  Theme Icon
Growing Up and Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
Storytelling and Control Theme Icon
Jo explains that she wants the story to be about Roger Skunk today, which leads Jack to assume that she must be talking about skunks in school. Having a new animal... (full context)
Marriage, Family, and Misogyny Theme Icon
Duty, Conformity, and Fitting In  Theme Icon
Storytelling and Control Theme Icon
Jo is upset over Roger Skunk’s problem, and she begs Jack (and Roger) to go see the Owl for advice. Jack is pleased that the story... (full context)
Growing Up and Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
Storytelling and Control Theme Icon
Jack continues the story. He explains that Roger goes to the owl and asks him for... (full context)
Marriage, Family, and Misogyny Theme Icon
Duty, Conformity, and Fitting In  Theme Icon
Growing Up and Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
Storytelling and Control Theme Icon
Jack concedes to Jo, telling her that Roger does indeed pay a visit to the wizard.... (full context)
Duty, Conformity, and Fitting In  Theme Icon
Storytelling and Control Theme Icon
Jack continues the story, explaining that Roger Skunk journeyed through the woods to visit the wizard’s... (full context)
Growing Up and Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
Storytelling and Control Theme Icon
...run away from him because he smells. The wizard invites Roger inside his dusty home. Jack notes that the wizard’s house is very messy because he is a very old man... (full context)
Marriage, Family, and Misogyny Theme Icon
Jack explains that Roger decided he wanted to smell like roses and that the wizard did... (full context)
Marriage, Family, and Misogyny Theme Icon
Duty, Conformity, and Fitting In  Theme Icon
Storytelling and Control Theme Icon
Jack explains that the wizard asks Roger for four pennies as payment for the spell. However,... (full context)
Marriage, Family, and Misogyny Theme Icon
Jack attempts to speed the story up. He explains that Roger returned to his friends who... (full context)
Duty, Conformity, and Fitting In  Theme Icon
Storytelling and Control Theme Icon
In an effort to regain Jo’s attention, Jack throws a wrench in his classic story. Jack tells Jo that when Roger gets home... (full context)
Duty, Conformity, and Fitting In  Theme Icon
Jo senses a flaw in Jack’s story: if Roger smells like a skunk again then he will continue to make the... (full context)
Marriage, Family, and Misogyny Theme Icon
Growing Up and Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
Storytelling and Control Theme Icon
...stupid mommy” for making Roger change his scent back. With “rare emphasis,” surprising even himself, Jack asserts that it was not stupid. He thinks that Jo notices the severity of his... (full context)
Marriage, Family, and Misogyny Theme Icon
Growing Up and Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
Storytelling and Control Theme Icon
Before Jack can leave, Jo stops him and explains that she wants a story the next day... (full context)
Marriage, Family, and Misogyny Theme Icon
Duty, Conformity, and Fitting In  Theme Icon
Jack does not give Jo a definitive answer, and he goes downstairs to finally help Clare... (full context)
Marriage, Family, and Misogyny Theme Icon
Duty, Conformity, and Fitting In  Theme Icon
Jack notices that the wood is half its old tan color and half a new white... (full context)