The narrative of The View from Saturday moves rapidly among several different settings, each in its own way providing clues to the inner lives of the characters. Nadia's stay with her father in Florida, for example, involves a project to save endangered sea turtles that are most vulnerable to human interference and predators on the beaches where they originally hatched and where they return to lay their eggs. Nadia, a reluctant participant in the turtle project, nonetheless sees parallels between her experiences and the life cycle of the turtles, including absent parents, a long journey to adulthood, and the possibility of losing one's way without help. Her experiences in Florida are then tied to The Souls and Mrs. Olinski, with Mrs. Olinski eventually realizing that she and her students have all been on journeys, each to find meaning in his or her life.
The handling of physical settings as analogues to the lives of the characters is very sophisticated, done so seamlessly that even with characters such as Nadia pointing out the analogies, the reader must give some thought to each important location in order to fully grasp its meaning in the lives of the characters. Sillington House, for instance, is at the heart of the formation of The Souls group, yet its significance must be divined from how the characters of The View from Saturday use it. It is first being converted to a bed and breakfast inn, a place where travelers may stay and feel at...
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Anyone reading The View from Saturday is likely to notice the novel's unusual structure. It has six separate voices telling the story. One voice is third-person omniscient, a voice that has the God-like power to read people's minds and tell anything about the events transpiring. Another voice is third-person limited, a voice that focuses on Mrs. Olinski and limits itself to her perceptions and thoughts. The other four voices are first person, each the voice of one of The Souls. Such experimentation with narrative voices can be fun, a roller coaster ride through the thoughts and feelings of characters. It also requires thought on the part of readers, especially when the voices overlap and give more than one version of an event such as the "cripple" incident. It invites readers to seek out the truth for themselves in the various narratives, while promoting awareness of the importance of diverse views on complex issues.
The View from Saturday is divided into sections that hop from one voice to another. This does not become confusing because the voices are distinctive enough not to be mistaken for each other. The sixth graders have a tendency to sound alike—perhaps because of Konigsburg's effort to give their narratives clear diction that is easy to understand—but this is well compensated for by the distinctiveness of each Souls' personality and view of the world. This personal distinction of character also has the effect of making each of...
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Konigsburg does not seem to shy away from controversy, but her novels tend to be much more concerned with the inner lives of young people than with social issues. Even so, The View from Saturday may make some readers uncomfortable with its disdainful treatment of the idea of diversity, the academic buzzword of the moment. Although the educational concept of diversity is a secondary issue in the novel, it is a recurring motif. Konigsburg points out that the theory of diversity in practice excludes Jews (perhaps even discriminates against them), other unfashionable ethnic groups such as East Indians, and would appear to exclude handicapped people such as Mrs. Olinski. The main characters of The View from Saturday even seem to be drawn together partly because they are each unfashionable in some way that cannot be helped, even though their roles as people on journeys is the most important factor. Furthermore, the purveyors of diversity seem to advocate it more for their own personal advancement than for the benefit of anyone else.
This needling of a sacred cow serves as part of the background of the lives of the main characters and is mild. None of Konigsburg's criticisms are false, and they inspire thought on the subject of social diversity. If there is a weakness in the presentation of the academic concept of diversity, it is that this idea is so shallow that like other fads it may pass from fashion and leave...
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Topics for Discussion
1. What themes and issues presented in the novel affect you most strongly?
2. What does the title The View from Saturday refer to?
3. Why do the young people call themselves The Souls? Is the name appropriate?
4. Why does Mrs. Olinski have trouble with the term diversity as it applies to students?
5. Why would Jews be excluded from a social setting in which diversity is theoretically supposed to ensure inclusion? What other groups of people does this kind of application of diversity exclude?
6. The narrative mentions a couple of times that sixth graders have changed. In what ways have they changed? Why have they changed? Are the changes, if any, good or bad?
7. Why would a student write "cripple" on the blackboard to describe Mrs. Olinski?
8. What does Nadia mean when she says that "I wanted silence to make him [her father] as miserable as it had made me"? What kind of silence can make someone miserable?
9. What does Julian mean by "I am as American as pizza pie. I did not originate here, but I am here to stay"? How might this idea apply to real life?
10. How does each Soul represent a limb of the balancing body for Mrs. Olinski? How do they help her, even when she is helping them? Could you and your classmates have a similar positive influence on the life of an adult?
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Ideas for Reports and Papers
1. The theme of resettling recurs throughout The View from Saturday. Locate these references and describe the context in which they are situated. How do they pertain to The Souls, Mrs. Olinski, and the remaining minor characters?
2. "Everyone—even those who had not had diversity training at taxpayer expense—knew that even though it was correct to recognize a person's ethnicity, it was not correct to comment upon it in public." Is this true? What are other unspoken rules for diversity?
3. How does the turtle analogy reflect Nadia and her father?
4. What important events happen at Sillington House? What do these events tell us about the characters of The View from Saturday?
5. How important for Nadia's personal growth are her experiences in Florida? How do these experiences lay the foundation for the themes of The View from Saturday?
6. What effects on young adult readers are intended by the multiple-voice narration of The View from Saturday? Does this narrative structure confuse them, as Ilene Cooper (see "For further Reference") suggests, or does Konigburg succeed in her aims? What aspects of this narrative method might confuse young readers? What aspects promote a greater subtlety in storytelling?
7. How well developed in the novel are Mrs. Olinski, Nadia, Ethan, Noah, and Julian? Are they well-rounded in the fullest sense of meaning that one may perceive the...
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Konigsburg has always gone her own way in her fiction for young people, occasionally using sophisticated literary techniques like multiple-voice narration that some adults might find inappropriate. She has also turned literary conventions upside down in some of her work. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (1967) won the 1968 Newbery Medal despite her refusal to employ formulaic story ideas and plot devices. Konigsburg presents in this book the novel concept of children who run away from home not into the woods but into that fascinating seat of learning, the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Laurie Konigsburg Todd says that this unique plot element of children fleeing for freedom to a civilized place rather than an uncivilized one was inspired by what her mother overheard at a long-ago picnic. Konigsburg listened to her children complain about "insects and heat" on this family occasion, and she realized that "her suburban children would never run away from home by opting for a wilderness adventure. Instead, we would seek the comfort and splendor of the Metropolitan Museum of Art" (See Todd's article cited in "For Further Reference").
The unusual structure of The View from Saturday also has family antecedents, being indirectly inspired by the author's son Paul, who tried to give her "a course in music appreciation." The first movement of Mozart's Fortieth symphony was the model Konigsburg used to give her novel its shifting voices...
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For Further Reference
Cooper, Ilene. Booklist 93, 4 (October 15, 1996): 424. In a review of The View from Saturday, Cooper says, "Konigsburg's latest shows flashes of her great talent and her grasp of childhood, but the book is weighted down by a Byzantine structure that houses too many characters and alternating narratives that will confuse readers."
Cummins, Julie. School Library Journal 42, 9 (September 1996): 204. Praises the artfulness of The View from Saturday.
Gutchen, Beth. New York Times Book Review (November 10,1996). Praises The View from Saturday for its intelligence.
Konigsburg, E. L. "Newbery Medal Acceptance." Horn Book Magazine 73, 4 (July-August 1997): 404-414. Konigsburg tells of how her first Newbery Medal in 1968 changed her life and career by opening up a "Third Place" where she could be, a place where she could discuss in an adult way literature for children.
TalkTalk: A Children's Book Author Speaks to Grown-ups. New York: Atheneum Books for Children (Simon & Schuster), 1995. This is a selection of Konigsburg's speeches to adult audiences since 1968, covering twenty-five years.
"A Prized Storyteller." Time for Kids 2, 20 (March 7, 1997): 7. Notes that The View from Saturday has won the Newbery Medal for 1997.
Publishers Weekly 243, 30 (July 22, 1996): 242. Finds The View from Saturday very attractive for young...
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