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Two really important things happen in the world during the nine months of The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt. One is the Vietnam War and the other is the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Neither of these events has any particular impact, however, on the relationship or conflict between Holling and his seventh-grade teacher Mrs. Baker. The opening lines of the novel are spoken by Holling"
Of all the kids in the seventh grade at Camillo Junior High, there was one kid Mrs, Baker hated with heat whiter than the sun. Me.
Despite Hoilling's perceptions, Mrs. Baker does not hate Holling and soon even he knows it. Two significant events that happen in the novel that do have an impact on their relationship, though, are Holling's playing Ariel in a local production of The Tempest and Holling having to try out for the cross country team.
Holling gets the role of Ariel rather accidentally, but it is his love of Shakespeare which allows him to get it. That is a direct result of reading and talking about Shakespeare's plays every Wednesday afternoon with Mrs. Baker. She helps Holling get a better understanding of his role simply by reading the play with him, and she is quite proud of his performance. This event enhances their relationship.
Another event which Holling is dreading is the tryouts for the cross country team in which he must participate. It is not something he wants to do or is particularly good at, but Mrs. Baker gives him some pointers on his running form which really help him. She reveals that she is a former Olympian, running the anchor leg in the silver-medal-winning four-by-one-hundred relay in the Melbourne Olympics in 1956. She helps Holling run with the same form as the famous Olympian Jesse Owens. This experience also makes the relationship between Holling and Mrs. Baker stronger.
There are, of course, several events which happen that do strain their relationship. Everything to do with cream puffs and cleaning the chalkboard erasers seems to cause a problem between them, as does Holling's inadvertent release of her two pet rats while he is cleaning their cage. Mrs. Baker is also not happy with Holling when he takes Shakespeare too lightly. None of these events, though they do seem to add to Holling's perceived conflict with his teacher, seem to keep Holling and Mrs. Baker from having a good working relationship for most of the novel.
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