Study Guide

Mr. Killburn (Ben's Father) in M.C. Higgins, the Great

By Virginia Hamilton

Mr. Killburn (Ben's Father)

Ben's father doesn't show up a lot in the book, but when he does, you know there's a serious point being made.

Like when he shows up at the Higgins' house with the ice he's selling. Jones freaks out big time, but Mr. Killburn comes across calm, collected, and normal. Okay, well maybe not normal exactly, but definitely calm and collected as he bargains with M.C. over the ice. You might even say he stays cool under pressure (bad ice joke, sorry):

Killburn never changed his smile, but his eyes began to pull M.C. in, like going deep in a well. He turned toward Jones and headed for the porch. The front door slammed as Jones retreated inside. (10.105)

Jones doesn't come off looking too good, whereas Mr. Killburn definitely comes off like the good guy. In fact, Mr. Killburn is like the alternative father figure in the novel. Whatever Jones is like, Mr. Killburn pretty much isn't (kind of like their sons). Jones eats meat; Mr. Killburn is a devout vegetarian. Jones owns land; Mr. Killburn doesn't believe in owning land at all, saying:

If you could think about [earth and everything on it] every day, you never could own a piece of it. Wouldn't want to. And if you don't think about it every day, you get to believing you have a right to own it. You become a sore growing on the body. (12.95)

Oh—and by the way, he can talk to and charm snakes. Which is a really cool party trick.

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