“Teenage Wasteland” is a distressing novel that expresses the concept that nothing ever stays the same. Change is prevalent, and not always widely accepted. People can fear change as well. The reader can hear Daisy’s thoughts as she worries and fears the cause, and the outcome of her son Donny. She goes through ups and downs as a naïve and vulnerable parent. Her son changes from a white, angelic- haired little boy, to a dark, troubled young man. The author, Anne Taylor, gives the reader the opportunity to look through this family’s crises and decide who takes the fault towards Donny’s outcome.
Daisy is still a likeable character despite her shortcomings as a parent. She may not be the best parent, but she is certainly not the worst. She spends a lot of time plaguing her mind with excuses as to how her son ended up the way he is. She can also be very self-conscious, as shown in the dialogue with the principle Mr. Lanham (¶ 8). She considers being judged solely based on her appearance as a parent, not her actual capabilities. This scene also demonstrates if Daisy had more confidence as a parent, she would not be as preoccupied with her appearance to others as much. Daisy is also pitied in some ways for having to raise Donny and Amanda practically by herself. For this reason she must gradually learn to take the blame for any faults she might have made under these circumstances. Daisy goes back and forth with ideas for Donny’s outcome. She considers not giving him enough attention with the birth of his younger sister Amanda (¶ 13, 14), and giving him too much attention. Amanda, ironically, is neglected as a result of Daisy’s obsession with Donny’s faults. The author suggests that Donny has been given too much attention as a child, and now cannot become someone he never was. When Daisy and Donny’s school crack down on him, he snaps back with calling his mother controlling, and his school resembling a prison. For other children who never receive freedom, they do not know any other way than to be without it. For Donny, he is spoiled, and breaks down without the ability to do whatever he wants.
In Daisy’s state of fragility, Cal decides to manipulate her into taking control of the responsibilities of her son. Daisy, without knowing any other way, decides to hand Donny over. The dialogue between Daisy, Donny’s teacher, and Cal expresses the manipulation, and confusion that Daisy endures as she wavers between blaming either of the two for Donny's mistakes (¶ 44). Daisy desperately wants someone to take the responsibility of fixing her son; therefore, finding someone to blame at his failures in life. Even Cal, who Donny respects, is surprisingly fine with Donny’s withdrawal of his services. This represents the climax of Donny’s naivety, as well as Daisy’s maturing. Donny had settled with Cal, who is just as unsure of himself as he is, and even suffers from being controlled by his own wife, which might explain Cal defending his pupils against this being controlled(¶59).
Daisy is not confident enough to do what she thinks is right as a parent. She goes from honoring Cal’s opinion, to letting him take over, then finally realizing the lack of help he is doing. The reader gradually witnesses her confidence grow as she listens to her parental instincts. She gains more confidence as she takes charge, and finally realizes that Donny is her sole responsibility. Daisy may be at fault in some sense, but even so, she is pitied by the reader for her own naivety. As a reader, Daisy is viewed as defenseless, and lost. Even her name suggests youth. The short story ends with the hope of Donny’s future, but Daisy will solely be forever overwhelmed by the idea of ruining her son’s life. Cal served for a short time as the outlet for Donny’s failures, and for Daisy’s as well. Daisy can be just as naïve as Donny in this sense, both beginning a new frontier. One being high school and the other being parenting. Neglect and faults are made, but this is not uncommon to most families. This story identifies the change between thinking one's parents are superhero's and realizing that they make mistakes too. The theme is change. Anne Tyler gives us a window into the problems that this family faces, and to the imperfections that Daisy is so self-conscious as to letting people know about. This short story gives proof of life’s imperfections, and the outcomes that are maybe or maybe not wholly deserved.(759).