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A Death in the Family

Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained

He was amused because his son had always mistaken the words "gal and" for "gallon," and because his wife and to a less extent her relatives were not entirely amused by his amusement. They felt, he knew, that he was not a man to take the word "gallon" so purely as a joke; not that the drinking had been any sort of problem, for a long time now. He sang…

This excerpt is taken from the section in italics directly preceding Part Two of the novel. This section describes a memory of a time when Rufus, still a very young boy, is afraid of the dark and yells for his father. It demonstrates two key points that show up throughout the novel: the devotion that father and son mutually feel for one another, and Jay's drinking problem. This is the only time in the novel when Jay alludes to his problem himself; he only says that it is "no longer a problem." His words indicate to us that his drinking was, however, a problem in the past, and the comments that other characters make throughout the novel support this suggestion.