The discipline of a child must always come from the parents, as society says. Power corrupts, however, and absolute power over another person can corrupt absolutely. Taking advantage of the thinness of the line between discipline and abuse, a parent often doesn’t have to answer to anyone if and when they cross that line.
In Mary Fisher’s essay “The Broken Chain,” Fisher’s father must deal regularly with punishing and disciplining his daughter. When bad, Fisher would occasionally have to bare her bottom to her father, awaiting punishment. Rex, her father, would then deal out the appropriate number of spankings, usually relative to her age. One evening when Fisher lost her patients, she dropped her baby brother from a highchair onto the floor. The response from her father was immediate and unthinking, smacking her aside the head and sending her across the room. Fisher spent the rest of the night in her room.
Fisher’s mother eventually came to her room and revealed some details about her father’s past. Fisher’s father and his brothers were heavily abused as a child, and only after becoming larger than their father did the abuse stop. Rex always feared being bound to his father through that abusive nature. Before that night, he had never struck out in anger against another person.
Never confronting his past, Mary’s father finally forces himself to look at his life. With his troubled past uncovered, Rex can begin to deal with his issues and allow his inner wounds to start healing. Rex no longer feared the chains of violence that bound his father.
Fisher herself describes Rex’s spankings as “heavy, dutiful slaps.” “Dutiful” gives the impression that Fisher knows that Rex is only doing his job, and in the end it is in Fisher’s best interests. When rage took over, however, Rex didn’t give any thought to what was best for Fisher, and this is where abuse begins.