Accidental shootings happen frequently in the U.S. because it’s licit to possess firearms in the U.S, and therefore many families have guns at home for protection, hunting etc. Children or teenagers often get hold of the guns, which leads to hazardous and unintentional acts. This is also what happens in “The Stone Boy”, where Arnold accidentally pulls the trigger when they are about to pick peas, which results in his brother Eugene’s death.
The story “The Stone Boy” takes place on a farm in the U.S, where Arnold and his family live. We don’t get any information about the neighbours or friends of Arnold and his family.
At the beginning the farm seems to have an ecstatic atmosphere, because Arnold is very enthusiastic about picking peas with his brother and spending some quality time with Eugene, which can be seen here: “Arnold had wanted to be with Eugie more than with anybody else (…)”. This implies that Arnold is very excited to spend time with Eugene, and that he is the person, Arnold wants to devote his time to. But after the tragic event the atmosphere has become very dull and desolate due to the loss of Eugene. The fact that Arnold isolates himself from the rest of the “World” and that his parents don’t want to confront their son, make the mood of the family void and melancholy.
Arnold is a young 9-year-old boy, who has also become very unobtrusive after the incident. At the beginning Arnold is vigorous, which is clear when he tries to rouse Eugene. He inherited the 22-calibre rifle from his father, because no one utilised it anymore, hence leading to Eugene’s death.
Arnold looks up to his brother Eugene, who is 15 years old. Arnold is also very fond of him. This can be seen, when Eugene is on his way downstairs, and Arnold says: “He never tired of watching his big brother”. This can also be seen at the scene of the crime, when Arnold inadvertently shoots his brother, where he is stunned when he finds out that Eugene is not responding to him. He can’t fathom that his brother is dead, so under these circumstances, Arnold “mechanically” starts picking peas like a machine – e.g. his brain doesn’t function as it’s supposed to. This implies that Arnold is an emotive boy, and he is “flabbergasted” and overwhelmed by this incident, and therefore he represses his feelings. This is also why the story is titled “The Stone Boy”, because Arnold internalises his feelings, so people’s perceptions of him are erroneous. The title “The Stone Boy” corresponds with the comportment of Arnold, because a stone is unbreakable, and can’t easily be affected by anything, which is how Arnold conducts himself.
In the story it’s also evident that Arnold needs support from his family. After telling his parents that Eugene is dead he tries to hide in a loft, because of the distress he had induced. This is clear, when he says: “If parents never called him, he thought, he would stay up in the loft forever, out of the way”. This insinuates that he feels that he is the reason for the incident, and that he is a disgrace to the family, and if he disappears problems will not emerge anymore. But in reality Arnold isn’t like a stone – the parents are. The reason being is that they don’t show mercy, and the only thing they can do as a family to help their son and themselves through this tough time is to support and comfort each other, which they certainly don’t do. For instance when Arnold suddenly awakes and knocks on his parents’ door, his mum replies by telling him to go back to bed. Here we are told by Arnold that he wishes that his mother would let him explain and apologise for the tragic incident he had caused, and explain everything he felt at the moment of Eugene’s death, which he says here: “He had expected her to tell him to come in, to allow him to dig his head into her blankets and tell her about the terror he had felt when he had knelt besides Eugie”.
It’s very blatant that he’s still a child and he needs unconditional love and support from his loved ones, and this also shows us that he still has feelings and that he did actually care about his brother and Eugene’s death.
The following morning after breakfast Arnold “ (…) went out the door and down the back steps, his legs trembling from the fright his answer gave him.” This quote tells us that Arnold won’t receive any sort of help from his parents, due to the fact that his mum still does not commiserate with Arnold. Him walking out the door indicates that he stands alone and has to help himself through this rough patch in his life. “(…) The trembling from the fright (…)” symbolises the insecurity he feels as he is taking the first step alone without any intrusion from his parents. This could also be a rite of passage to adolescence/growing up even though he is still a child.
To conclude, the message of the story is that parents and family have a big impact on how their children address a situation and the repercussions of an accidental incident. The title “The Stone Boy” does not delineate Arnold, as he actually feels sorry for what he had done, but the “stones” here are the parents, because they don’t have pity for Arnold.