In the short story Benny, by Mordecai Richler, Benny is a short, skinny, middle aged man with a narrow looking face. He is known as a dumbie by others but deep down is a kind, hard working man. The constant comparison to others, from his father, is a source of frustration in Benny’s life that ultimately drives him crazy.
Benny failed his class in grade nine. His teacher wrote a note home claiming Benny was not a student, but has all the makings of a good citizen. That proves he was not smart, but slow.
It wasn’t hard for Garber, Benny’s father, to decide to send Benny off overseas. Why send his other son, Abe, when he could send the dumbie, Benny. When Benny returned home he worked for Abe in his garage. Abe reported that Benny was slow, no genius of mechanic, but customers liked him.
Benny never had the brains but that didn’t stop him from being a kind, hard working man. His teacher was happy to write in his note that Benny was honest, attentive in class and a hard worker.
Benny went over seas to be in the army and when returned home went straight to work the next day for Abe instead of taking a rest for two weeks. Even the wound from war, a shrapnel in his leg, never held Benny back from getting things done.
Benny’s father had a bad habit of comparing his boy to another boy that had succeeded far in life. When Benny’s teacher suggested he find trade, Mr. Garber piped up about how Shapiro’s boy was a doctor.
Benny would often curl up and tremble when it was raining and storming outside because the war had left his with horrible memories. Instead of Mr. Garber comforting him he commented on how the other boys had went to war and that Shaipro’s boy was an officer. Even regulars at the Pop & Cigar Shop noticed something wrong with Benny psychologically.
Benny got married to Bella Myerson… but that was not something Benny’s father was happy about as Shapiro’s boy had married into the...