Bobby in “Sweethearts”

The character of Bobby really baffles me in the beginning.  The idea that two divorced people could still be civil and friends after the fact is just strange, different even, from what I know.  Bobby is tied to the three characters in very different ways, but ways that make it hard for him to leave.  Bobby’s relationship with Arlene is that of a former lover and husband, now turned friend.  Even though Bobby says that he is not jealous of her and Russell, he is.  He wishes that he had a family; even if it were not really a conventional one, he wants one nonetheless.  The fact that he is still good friends with Arlene suggests that he has attachment issues, or rather that he has a hard time letting go.  He harbors anger against her, and sometimes it comes out in spurts, like in the beginning of the story, like on page fifty-six when he tells her that he ought to slap her.  Russell says that he actually sees Bobby’s muscles tighten as though he were really going to hit her.  But this kind of outburst isn’t the only one.  When you combine them, it makes you wonder if his temper is part of the reason that Arlene divorced him.  After all, she said it was what was best for her.

Bobby is connected to Russell by way of understandment.  They were both divorced men who knew what kind of process that was.  The only difference between them was that Russell was able to move on with his life (his and his daughter’s) and start a new relationship, while Bobby seems to be stuck on Arlene.  And Bobby is jealous of Russell’s life, his family really.  Bobby seems to really like Cherry, Russell’s daughter and Arlene’s kind of stepchild.  Cherry sees Russell as a playmate and doesn’t understand much of what is going on with him.  She is the only character whom Bobby doesn’t seem to get angry with, and he keeps his calm when she tells him that he can’t go to school with her but has to go to jail.  Instead, he lashes out at Arlene, like the whole thing is her fault.

I thought that this story was about the need for human contact — the safety of it, the saving qualities, the fear of being alone and the knowledge of how to let go.

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2 Responses to Bobby in “Sweethearts”

  1. allisonstansberry says:

    And, see, I don’t think that the lack of action means a lack of drama or emotion. It certainly doesn’t mean a lack of emotion to me at least. I think that I agree with Heather in that this is a strange relationship, it is one that is twisted in a way because Bobby does indeed want what Russ has but he cannot express it as such. Perhaps this is why Arlene left. But Bobby not being able to express his emotions does not mean that he does not have them. He does, he just can’t get anything right in his life to say them. It seems that the only person he does talk to in any emotional way is Cherry, which is strange because she has no blood relationship to Arlene, which seems to be the person he most wants. It also seems that Bobby’s relationship to Cherry is out of a necessity to be a part of a family that he would never be able to have because he cannot express emotion. This is not my favorite Richard Ford story that we have read, and I enjoyed it less than the others, but I don’t think it should be discounted because of its content. It is a simple story, but it is also the simple things that make our life count and which are worth something.

  2. libbyhannon says:

    I agree with the mind-boggling part about Russ, mostly because of Russ’s attitude towards Bob. I found their relationship to be highly abnormal, and almost unbelievable at times. I thought it highly unusual that a father would allow his only child (from another marriage, no less; it would seem less strange if he and Arlene were the parents) to develop such a playful relationship with a convicted felon. In class, people argued that Bobby was no monster, but simply misunderstood. Misunderstood he may be, but someone at the level of desperation that drives them to commit armed robbery is not an appropriate figure to have around your child. Russ obviously cares for his daughter, and I can’t reconcile any parent who loves their child allowing them to ‘hang out’ with such a person.
    Everything about Bobby disgusts me. He wails and whines about going to prison, but here’s the newsflash, Bobby: people who point guns at other people go to jail. Man up and own your crime. Russ doesn’t seem to actually like Bobby, but his passive nature is infuriating. Bobby threatens to hit his wife, and Russ makes small talk with him. He’s violent, he’s Russ’s wife’s ex, and he’s completely intolerable from the picture we get of him, and yet…Russ does nothing. I don’t understand the relationship between Bobby, Arlene, and Russ at all. He brings nothing to Arlene but fear and anger. I can’t find any redeeming qualities in this man, and find it outrageous how the characters tend to ‘stick up’ for him.

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