The short story is about the memories of a boy from when he was fourteen years-old, and his world was falling apart. We hear about his life as the unimportant element of the family, where his sister is demanding all of the attention by stealing. His parents do not perceive the sours of the problems, and thereby they are only aggravating the situation.
Almost the entire short story takes place in the family’s house. There has not been giving a direct or detailed description of it, but the narrator mentions that both him and his sister has their own room, and we also hear about how the narrators mother is walking around from room to room, and we must then assume that their home is about medium size or more.
The narrator’s friend Gary’s house and the school are also shortly being mentioned, but we get no description of these places at all.
The short story seems like something that could happen in our time, maybe there are a few things that seem old-fashion. For an example when Michelle is slapped in full view of her guest by her father. It would be something that most parents would abhor today, but all together, I think it appears very up to date.
We meet the characters one by one as they pop up in the short story. Except for the narrator’s sister, none of them is described in details, but he gives us an impression on how they are through their actions.
First of all we have the narrator. He is fourteen years old when the story takes place. He never tells us his gender, but from the text, you can see some clues in which it shows, for example in the second line of the text, the narrator describes himself as “inundated by sex”, and that is in my head a very clear lead of the narrator being a boy, because of the lack of ‘sex-obsession’ in a fourteen year-old girl’s head. Also in line 30-34 page 1, I believe there is a sign of his gender: “in form of urges, conjured by a boy in my class called Gary, but currently self-satisfied. I went round to his house after school and we discussed sex, or more accurately, masturbation, with great enthusiasm and not a stroke of physical contact” Again we have focus on something sexually, we hear that the narrator is going around a boy called Gary’s house to discuss sex or as he says more accurately masturbation, which clearly sounds much more like a fourteen year-old boy, than a girl. Also the little information about going to Gary’s house after school seems like a weird action of a girl that age. But there are also signs of the narrator being a girl. For example when the family finds the stolen flute shoved down the chimney of his old dolls house. The fact that the narrator has had a doll and a dollhouse, could mean that it is a girl instead, but I am still feeling pretty secure, that the narrator is a male.
He seems to be very observing to his family, and I think he is feeling kind of insignificant because of the way he is using 4 pages on telling us about his sister’s problem with only a few details about himself I guess he is not used to being told that he also matters. In the quote from before, line 30-34 page 1, he is discussing masturbation with his friend Gary, which by it self seems very normal, but then when we come to line 99 page 3, it seems like there is more in that relationship than first assumed: “Gary and I were undergoing a crisis. Our arrangement, for months so rewarding, had been breached by him attempting to kiss me. When his hot mouth had landed inaccurately on mine I bucked away in reflex astonishment that must have appeared to him as repulsion” it complicates things a bit, because the narrator is bucking away I reflex, but he also seems to be regretting it in the way he tells us about it, so we do not quite know, whether it is just Gary or the both of them who is having homosexual traits. Besides when he describes the situation with Gary, he does not really seem to be emotional, if we look at the situation when his mom just told him, his parents were going to be divorced, he just yawns and says nothing. In this scene the narrator also seems very cold to his mother. Of course it could be a reaction of chock, but comparing it to the rest of the short story, I do not think so. Also he does not seem to have any compassion for his sister, the nearest he comes to that is when their father is pulling Michelle’s knickers down and he is slapping her bottom in front of the guests, while Michelle is howling. Here he just accepts her reaction, by saying that he could not blame her for being upset, in stead of not caring for her at all.
Then we hear about Michelle (the narrator’s sister). She is eight years old when the story takes place. In the first sentence, the narrator says that his sister had turned into a thief, and he is right. It began with her stealing her friend Alison Church’s tube of Sweet Missy shower gel where she for the first time in months, had gotten her fathers full attention, and she kept on doing it, even though her father first forced her into an extravagant tearful apology then slapped her legs in front of Alison, and ms. Church, and then made her write ”I am a thief” -notes and made her sellotape them up in her room. In the end of the short story, the narrator is looking at his sister after searching her room with his parents and finding a flute, she had stolen from the music room: “She was curled on the settee, staring at the telly. She looked small.” which demonstrates that she is feeling badly about her actions, but it is on the other hand the only way, she can get the attention, from her family, she needs.
Also Michelle is only stealing things from Alison Church, or things that she is also in possession of (like the flute from the music room and the shower gel), so that could also be a sign of her wanting to be like Alison. Maybe because Alison has a great family with all the attention she needs, and Michelle is jealous and then is stealing her things to get what she wants.
The narrator’s mother is also being mentioned. She sounds like a very calm and reserved person, who seems a bit annoyed or maybe even scared of the way the narrator’s father is handling the ‘stealing’ situations on as you can see, when she, after they have found twenty-three stolen library books, reacts kind of odd, by telling the narrator not to tell his father about it. It is not normal for a mother to hide things like that for her husband unless she fears his reaction. I see her as a weak character, who does not handle the situations with her children well enough in general. Like when she comes home and the father tells her about the act earlier that day, she just goes and makes herself something to eat. Which really makes it seem like she wants to take the drama out of the act, and reduce the hassle for her self.
We do not at any time in the short story hear that the mother is taking responsibility for her children, she is letting the father handle all the tough situations, which makes her look as if she does not really care.
As an opposite of the mother, we have the narrator’s father. He is the one in the family who is taking care of all the problems. He seems a bit old-fashioned, for example in the way that he punishes Michelle for stealing, by slapping her. Usually when you punish children that are only eight years old, you would not use that kind of psychical punishment but instead try to be more verbal. Also the scene where he makes her write the “I am a thief”- notes seems very outdated. Besides from taking care of all the problems, I get the impression that he is not really family-minded. And he clearly does not give his children any attention. You can say that he has provoked the problems in the family, by not caring for, or giving the children any attention, but it could also be something he has developed after living with his very passive wife for so long.
The relationship between the mother and the father is very complicated. It seems like the father has taken control over the sensitive and weaker mother, and he has the hold of the family on the outside, he is also very dominating, and in situations like when his wife is hiding from him, that Michelle has stolen some library books, it makes you consider which acts she is trying to prevent. But it is also the mother who wants to be the peacemaker for the family when she suggests that Alison Church be invited to tea. They each have their areas to control, and for them, it really seems to function.
Besides from the mentioned characters, we also meet Alison Church, her mother ms. Church and Gary, but no relevant descriptions of them is to be found in the text.
The short story’s title ‘Most Wanted’, I have interpreted to be the narrator’s underlining of the children’s lack of attention from their parents. I also believe that it is to show us readers that Michelle is willing to do all it takes to be the parents “most wanted”, and that is exactly what she is doing. It seems as if the narrator wants to show us, that his sister has assumed that role after she has begun stealing.
He does almost not mention himself, in addition to the two places in the short story, where we hear about him and Gary, which makes me, as a reader, think about whether he is also convinced that his sister is worth more than himself, or if it is just unconsciously.
The theme in this short story is definitely attention, and the lack of same. The whole story is based on the two children wanting to get the attention, their parents failed to give them, and the very unhealthy ways for the children of getting it.
The way the parents is acting in general and especially their way of handling the tough situations, has very important implications on the family as a unit, which is getting more and more dysfunctional. They keep on giving the narrator’s sister Michelle all the attention she aspires when she is stealing, and thereby they increase the narrator’s lack of attention. The family’s situation has been blown into a vicious spiral, which requires a very long and difficult process for all of them to get out of.