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Should Wizard Hit Mommy? By John Updike Summary Class 12th English

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  1. Joanne: a four-year-old girl, whose pet name is ‘Jo’.
  2. Jack: Joanne’s father
  3. Clare: Wife of Jack, mother of Joanne.
  4. Skunk: a baby creature with a bad smell.
  5. Mother Skunk: Mother of baby Skunk.
  6. Owl: a wise creature that solves the problems.
  7. Wizard: A magician.


This story highlights a moral issue. It asks a question whether the parents should always decide what the children should do or let the children do what they want or like to do. Children live in their own magical world and see dreams they like. Unlike adults, they lack despise, ugliness, and petty differences. They are pure at heart. “Should Wizard hit Mommy?” raises many questions and offers many things to learn from children. Jo feels that the wizard must hit Mommy. His father Jack is of the opinion that it would be bad because a ‘mommy is always right.’ She ought to be should be loved and respected.

Summary of the Story

Jo and Bobby are two little kids of Jack. Clare, his wife, was carrying their third child. Jack used to tell Jo bedtime stories. Jack would tell a story to his daughter Jo out of his head in the evenings and for Saturday naps. This story-telling tradition began when Jo was two-year-old and it was continuing for the last two years.

There always was a small creature, usually named after Roger. For instance, Roger Fish, Roger Squirrel, Roger Chipmunk etc. He always had some problem and he would go to the wise old owl. The owl would direct to the Wizard. The Wizard would perform a magic spell that solved his problem. The Wizard, in turn, would demand payment many pennies greater than the number Roger creature had.

But at the same time, he would direct the animal to a place where the extra pennies could be found. Then Roger would become so happy that he played many games with other creatures. Roger then would go home to his mother just in time to hear the train whistle that brought his daddy home from Boston. Jack then would describe their supper, and the story was over.

Here is an example of Roger’s story

Roger was a disabled creature. He had a disability such as blindness, lameness, deafness, etc. Jack would recall varied kinds of disabilities and species of animals.

Roger was disabled, so he could not play with his friends and was left alone. Seeing him cry, a wise owl advises him to meet a wizard who lived in the neighborhood for help through magic. There he goes to the wizard, evokes pity in the old wizard’s mind and gets rid of his ailment by paying a few pennies. On his return, Roger is accepted by his friends and soon he becomes a sweetheart for all.

Same Story Every day

Everyday jack told Jo the same story with two changes: one, Roger monkey changes into Roger cat or Roger chipmunk or Roger skunk. Two, Roger suffers from a different illness/disability. The rest almost remain the same.

Although the story was monotonic, Jo liked her father’s amazing narrative skills. One Saturday, Jack told another Roger episode, a new animal called skunk. He had a problem, which was a disability associated with Roger. That was, he smelled extremely bad.

This story really thrilled Jo and Jack loved it.

This disability was unbearable for little Roger. Yet he had to accept it because naturally, all the skunks smell bad. When a skunk is attacked by its enemies, it can emit a foul smell. This smell is like farting. It helps in scattering the enemies away.

A bad smell keeps the enemies and friends away and there is no getting rid of it. Roger suffered from indignity, alienation, disapproval, withdrawal. The wise owl advised him to meet the wizard. Roger went to the wizard. The wizard was willing to give him a good smell in the place of his natural foul smell.

Astonishingly, it was the smell of roses!

Roger was thrilled. He smelled like the sweetest of roses. He thanked the wizard and ran to his friends. And his friends loved Roger for his smell. Roger ran home to break the good news to his mom and dad, after playing with his happy friends.

Jo thought there can’t be another Roger Story that had a better end than this one. She was happy and was getting ready to sleep.

But what happened next was fouler than the foul smell!

Jo thought the story was over. Her father retorted violently, “Jo, that is the end of the story, now you sleep.”

Jack is weird and unfit. To establish a father’s commanding power in the family, and to remind the child that children have to listen to parents, he told her, “Jo, the story was not over!” At once Jo got a start and she awoke from a sound sleep.

So, the story took a new turn. A deviation that Jack deliberately brought in. He said, “Roger’s mother didn’t like this new smell, however sweet it was.”

“Why,” asked Joe. “What is wrong with that?”

Jack explained why it was not acceptable to Roger’s mother.

“So, she took Roger with the rose smell and went in search of the wizard. When the wizard opened the door, she hit him with her umbrella and explained how the wizard’s magic infuriated/angered her.” The wizard spelled another magic and Roger smelled as foul as he did earlier. Glad, Roger’s mother took him back home. “And Joe, the story ends here,” said Jack.

The End

Jack ended his story with Roger skunk’s mother hitting the wizard for giving a new smell to her son. In fact, Joe had loved the previous ending of the story where Roger became a happy creature with the smell of roses that the wizard gave him. She was not happy with this new ending and wanted her father to make the wizard hit Roger’s mommy. But Jack was not ready to make any change as he thought Joe should accept him without question. As Jack had created Roger after himself and Roger’s mother after his own mother, he wanted the story to remain a reminder to his daughter to understand the importance of yielding to her parents.

The gist of the Lesson

  • The chapter captures a very sensitive reaction of a small girl to an important aspect of the story that her father narrates to her.
  • The story reveals the worldview of a little child to a difficult moral question that shows her mental or psychological richness.
  • Jo is a little girl of four years. She is engaged in a story session with her father.
  • Jack, the father used to tell her a story every evening and especially for Saturday naps.
  • Jo feels involved with the characters and the happenings.
  • The story always had an animal with a problem. The old owl advises him to visit the wizard who would solve the problem.
  • Skunk’s problem‐ he smelt bad, visited the wizard who changed it to the smell of roses.
  • Skunk’s mother was unhappy with it and took him back to the wizard. She hit the wizard and asked him to restore the original smell. She wanted her son to keep his identity of a skunk and wanted his friends to accept him for himself. So, the wizard changes him back to smell like a skunk.
  • After hearing the story of Roger Skunk Jo was not happy with the ending.
  • She wants her father to change the ending. She wants the wizard to hit the mother back and let Roger be which her father was not ready to do to establish his authority. This raises a difficult moral question whether parents possess the right to impose their will on their children.
  • Her father finds it difficult to answer her question.

Questions & Answers

  1. Why was storytelling more tiresome on Saturdays?
    On Saturdays, Jo didn’t feel sleepy. It was probably because the child enjoyed her father’s company rather than sleeping. Besides, Jo was a four-year-old girl-child and she was very curious about everything.
  2. Why was Roger sad?
    Roger was sad because he was not like his friends. He was either lame or blind, deaf or numb. Due to his disability, his friends didn’t allow him to play with them. He was bored of his mother’s company all the time.
  3. What did the wise owl advise Roger to do?
    The wise owl advised Roger to go to the wizard who lived alone in a small house. The wizard could cure Roger’s deformity.
  4. What was Jo’s initial response to the story?
    Jo liked the new story of Roger skunk although it was a slight variation from the previous stories. She liked Roger’s deformity of smelling bad as an unexpected twist. She squeezed her little body as a sign of concentration. She got so much involved in the story that Jo shed a few drops of tears over Roger’s predicaments. Besides sympathizing with the hapless creature, she wanted to know if Roger would meet the wizard who used to offer him a solution.

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By Asad yar Khan

Asad Yar Khan is Former Chairman of AMC, an educational NGO. A passionate proponent of education development, his favour...more

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