The Altar of the Family

The Altar of the Family by Michael Wilding

The idea of having a patriarchal society is a very controversial topic in today’s world. When presented with these traditional views of male dominance in our society we fail to recognize that this concept not only is harmful to females but to males as well, especially young boys trying to live up to their expectations. “The Altar of the Family” a moving short story but Michael Wilding explores this idea of gender ideology and how it damages the life of a young boy. This story is about a young boy, David, who attempts discovering the ‘correct’ ways to become a man. In seeking his manhood and yearning to gain his honor of his father, he kills a possum, an ongoing pest that his father despises. However in doing that demoralizing act he doesn’t succeed in getting what he was aiming for but instead loses his pure innocence. Through the use of narrative conventions, such as characterisation, point of view, conflict and resolution, readers are positioned to challenge the views of a patriarchal society by sympathizing with David and rejecting his father’s idea of masculinity.

In “The Altar of the Family”, Wilding uses characterisation to position readers to question traditional patriarchal views in our culture. David is the main character and protagonist in the story and he is shown to challenge society’s old-fashioned stereotype of a young boy trying to gain his honour and manhood. The first sign we are presented with of how David isn’t any other ordinary young boy is when he plays with his younger sister, Lindy. This is shown through the example “He played with his young sister, Lindy, dressing and undressing dolls.” Through the use of this quote we start to realise how different he is from other boys and how he doesn’t conform to the masculine stereotype. Many boys his age would do something more active and violent, however here we are presented with David playing with girlish dolls. David is also called names when he...