Should Wizard Hit Mommy?

by

John Updike

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Roger’s Smell Symbol Analysis

Roger’s Smell Symbol Icon

In Jack’s story, Roger Skunk is anxious to get rid of his smell so that the other animals will not run away from him and will allow him to play. Jack feels personally invested in Roger’s plight, having being bullied as a boy himself, but Roger’s smell comes to mean more to Jack as the story progresses. Jack tries to show Jo that Roger cannot change his smell because it is something that belongs to him—something innately his own—and that, without it, he is no longer recognizable to the people around him. As Jack continues his story, it becomes clear that he views his duty to his wife Clare, Jo and their family in the same way: that familial obligation stays with him like Roger’s unpleasant odor, something that he cannot shake, give up, or change without losing the people that he cares about. Therefore, when Jack tells Jo that Roger chooses to keep his skunk smell out of love for his mother, he is indicting that, like Roger, he remains committed to his family out of a similar sense of obligation, no matter how unhappy or ostracized they make him feel. This comparison casts familial duty in an inherently negative light—something that is as unpleasant, limiting, and alienating as a bad odor. Jo’s reaction to Roger Skunk’s smell shows that a sense of duty and self-sacrifice is something that comes with old age, since she is horrified that Roger is choosing to sacrifice being able to play with the other animals to please his mother. However, that Jack himself feels trapped in his life shows that even some adults never fully come to terms with the feeling of having made sacrifices out of a sense of duty to others.

Roger’s Smell Quotes in Should Wizard Hit Mommy?

The Should Wizard Hit Mommy? quotes below all refer to the symbol of Roger’s Smell. 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

“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:

“That was a stupid mommy.”

Related Characters: Jo (speaker), Roger’s Mother (speaker)
Related Symbols: Roger’s Smell
Page Number: 81
Explanation and Analysis:
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Roger’s Smell Symbol Timeline in Should Wizard Hit Mommy?

The timeline below shows where the symbol Roger’s Smell 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
Duty, Conformity, and Fitting In  Theme Icon
Growing Up and Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
Storytelling and Control Theme Icon
...ignites Jack’s creativity. He begins the story by explaining that Roger was a skunk who smelled so bad that none of the other animals wanted to play with him. This causes... (full context)
Growing Up and Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
Storytelling and Control Theme Icon
...for advice, since all of the other animals run away from him because of his smell. Before Jack can continue, Jo interjects that Roger should go see the wizard. Jack scolds... (full context)
Growing Up and Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
Storytelling and Control Theme Icon
...explains to the wizard that all the other animals run away from him because he smells. The wizard invites Roger inside his dusty home. Jack notes that the wizard’s house is... (full context)
Marriage, Family, and Misogyny Theme Icon
Jack explains that Roger decided he wanted to smell like roses and that the wizard did a spell to make it possible. When he... (full context)
Marriage, Family, and Misogyny Theme Icon
...Roger returned to his friends who were now happy to play with him since he smelled like roses. The animals played until it was dark and then went home to their... (full context)
Duty, Conformity, and Fitting In  Theme Icon
Storytelling and Control Theme Icon
...tells Jo that when Roger gets home to his mother, she is repulsed by his scent and demands that he go back to the wizard and get changed back. Jo is... (full context)
Duty, Conformity, and Fitting In  Theme Icon
...went to sleep. Jack explains that when Roger’s mother went to kiss him goodnight he smelled like a skunk again and she was very happy. (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 other animals run away.... (full context)
Marriage, Family, and Misogyny Theme Icon
Growing Up and Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
Storytelling and Control Theme Icon
Jo says, “That was a stupid mommy” for making Roger change his scent back. With “rare emphasis,” surprising even himself, Jack asserts that it was not stupid. He... (full context)