The thing Holling Hoodhood wants most in life is to have a chance to determine his own destiny. Holling's father is a controlling, insensitive man who has decided that Holling will follow in his footsteps and take over his architecture company, called Hoodhood and Associates, when he comes of age. Holling's father is used to having his own way, and will not allow any dissent in his family, or anywhere else. What he says, goes, and he cruelly belittles anyone who dares defy him.
Holling does not know what he wants to do with his life; because of his talents - as Mrs. Baker tells him, he "has the soul of an architect," - he may indeed follow in his father's footsteps, career-wise, but he wants to have the chance to decide this for himself. Holling tells Mrs. Baker that the thing he is most afraid of is
"that (he) won't get the chance to see what (he) can do with the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,"
and Mrs. Baker tells him that, because of the great courage involved in securing that chance, not many people do. Holling, however, is determined, and with the lessons learned through the support of Mrs. Baker and others, as well as the insights he has gained from reading the works of Shakespeare, he finds the strength to stand up to his father. When his father tells him that becoming a man involves getting a good job, providing for one's family, and learning to "play for keeps," Holling disagrees, saying,
"I don't think so...it's not just about a job. It's more. It has to do with choosing for yourself."
The story ends on a hopeful note, and it appears that Holling will indeed have that chance to determine his own destiny.