| Quote #1
"I guess I'll never have a coat like that. Can I?"
"You can. When you earn one. You'll be a man one day. One day soon."
"Someday," I said.
"It can't be someday, Rob. It's got to be now. This winter. Your sisters are gone, all four are wedded and bedded. Your two brothers are dead. Born dead and grounded in our orchard. So it's got to be you, Rob."
"Why are you saying this, Papa?"
"Because, son. Because this is my last winter." (12.87-92)
Whoa. Way to break it to him gently, Papa. If Papa's right, Rob's going to need to grow up fast. What do you think—is Rob old enough to be dealt this tough stuff from him dad?
| Quote #2
"It's got to be you, Rob. Your mother and Carrie can't do it alone. Come spring, you aren't the boy of the place. You're the man. A man of thirteen. But no less a man. And whatever has to be done on this land, it's got to be did by you, Rob. Because there'll be nobody else, boy. Just you." (12.102)
It may not be ideal, but the point is that Rob has to step up to the plate, because there's just nobody else available to work the farm. Necessity is the mother of invention, as they say. P.S. Why can't Rob's mom take over? (The feminist Shmoopers out there will definitely have something to say about this!)
| Quote #3
Papa was breathing the way no man or beast should breathe. I had never seen any man work as fast. I knew his hands must of been just about froze off; but he kept working, with no gloves. At last he stopped, pushing me away from the pork and turning me around so as my back was to it. He stood close by, facing me, and his whole body was steaming wet with work. I couldn't help it. I started thinking about Pinky. My sweet big clean white Pinky who followed me all over. She was the only thing I ever really owned. The only thing I could point to and say…mine. But now there was no Pinky. Just a sopping wet lake of red slush. So I cried.
"Oh, Papa. My heart's broke."
"So is mine," said Papa. "But I'm thankful you're a man." (14.28-30)
So what makes Rob "a man" in Papa's estimation? Surely not simply that he took part in killing Pinky, right? No, it's much more than that—it's that he did what he had to do, despite how badly he didn't want to do it. That, to Papa, is what manhood is all about.