Study Guide

Belle Prater's Boy Jealousy

By Ruth White

Jealousy

"The idea was that she would be the belle of the ball," Granny said, and gazed out the window with a long-ago look in her eyes. "We always hoped she would be."

"And was she?" I said.

"No, dear. Your mama was the belle of every ball. She was near about the prettiest thing on the planet. And poor Belle…" (2.7-9)

Belle's been resentful about Love's natural beauty since they were both girls. It was always impossible for her to measure up when Love was the belle of every ball, catching every single boy's eye.

It was true. Funny thing was, I used to like Porter Dotson fine when he was just the feller down the street who ran the newspaper. He was funny and friendly. Then he married my mama two years ago, and I stopped liking him. Every time I saw him sitting there where my daddy used to sit reading the paper by the picture window, I wanted to shout at him, "Move your carcass outa my daddy's place!" (2.50)

Gypsy doesn't have any real reason to dislike Porter Dotson except for the fact that he's married to her mother. She's mad at him for taking her father's place… even though her father isn't around anymore.

"So how did Aunt Belle take it?"

"Badly," Mama said. "She…"

Mama paused and I saw her chin quiver.

"She… she was like a whipped dog. She shut herself up in her room, wouldn't talk to anybody, lost weight, cried…" (5.14-17)

Oh, poor Aunt Belle. She really took it horribly when Amos left her for Love. She couldn't handle seeing them together and ended up having to leave town because it was so hard for her.

"I remember that Saturday so vividly," Mama said. "The day Belle finally came out of her room. She came down the stairs all dressed up fit to kill in a red dress and bright red lipstick, and smelling like she fell into a vat of perfume. Mother and I were in the living room altering a dress I was going to wear on a date with Amos later that night." (5.27)

Poor Belle isn't getting all gussied up because she's actually excited about going out and meeting some fellers. She is just having such a hard time watching Love go out with Amos that she has to do something. She can't just sit around and stew in her pain and jealousy anymore.

All through dinner Woodrow and Porter jabbered about Alfred Hitchcock, and they didn't ask me what I thought about anything. It was like they were suddenly old pals and I was a bump on a log. (10.30)

Gypsy is already jealous of Porter because he's filling her father's role in the household, but now she feels like he's infringing on her friendships, and she is not cool with that.

"Now you tell us a story, Woodrow," Rita said.

"Whatsa matter, Fatty?" Buzz said irritably. "You didn't like my story?"

Rita didn't say anything. She just dropped her head. (12.8-10)

When Buzz doesn't feel like he's getting enough attention, he gets mean. Here he feels threatened by Woodrow's popularity so he opts to knock another kid down a notch in order to feel secure in his superiority. What a jerk.

In the midst of this carrying on and acting like a fool, I glanced up at Buzz and I saw he was not laughing at all. Huh-oh. Somebody musta stepped on his corns real hard. He was looking at Woodrow like he might want to clobber him.

"Hey Woodrow," he hollered suddenly. "Was your mama cross-eyed?" (12.54-55)

Buzz is a total jerk when he's not the center of attention. Because Woodrow is popular with all the other kids, Buzz decides to attack him personally by pointing out his crossed eyes—and by bringing up his mother. Talk about a low blow.

"I know," Grandpa said. "He is good like you say, and he is sensitive too, like Belle was. She wanted more than anything to be pretty like your mama, but she just wasn't. And folks were always comparing them. Right in front of Belle they'd talk about what a beauty Love was." (13.44)

No wonder Belle was always so jealous and resentful of Love: People didn't have enough tact to stop comparing her to her sister, who was naturally more beautiful and popular with the boys.

It was maddening to me how he could stir up a whole town in a single afternoon and not even get scolded for it and I could never get away with anything at all. I reckon it was about that time I came across a streak of jealousy I didn't know was hiding and festering in me. (16.20)

Gypsy becomes irrationally mad at Woodrow when he gets away with telling Mrs. Cooper that her drink is spiked. She feels like everyone thinks that he's funny and clever while they just see her as a pretty girl with no substance.

"I used to think…" Woodrow went on. "Well, I was jealous of you because I thought you had it so easy. I thought… but I just didn't know how much you had been through… how you were hurt inside…" (20.11)

Gypsy looks like one lucky duck, but it turns out that she doesn't have everything after all. Her life only looks easy and fun from the outside, but inside she's harboring a whole world of hurt.

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