How is Danny Hupfer's background similar to Mai Thi Huong's background in Gary Schmidt's The Wednesday Wars?
In Gary Schmidt's The Wednesday Wars, the greatest similarity in background Danny Hupfer and Mai Thi Huong share is that they both come from ethnic minority groups that are persecuted. Danny is Jewish, whereas Mai Thi is a Vietnamese refugee. Despite their background of persecution, or perhaps in part because of it, both prove to be very brave characters.
Danny demonstrates bravery by devotedly practicing for and following through with his bar mitzvah. He is terrified of his bar mitzvah because he knows that if he makes a mistake, he'll bring shame to his whole family. Yet, because he knows it is such an important tradition in his heritage and because his friends are encouraging him, he follows through with devotedly practicing. By June, Holling reports that Danny sang at his bar mitzvah brilliantly, as if "God himself [was] leading the music" ("June"). In addition, Danny demonstrates bravery by standing up for Holling when Mickey Mantle insults him, refusing to autograph Holling's baseball because he is still wearing his fairy costume after having performed in The Tempest; Danny stands up for Holling by handing his own signed ball back to Mickey Mantle. Best of all, Danny stands up for Mai Thi by punching and dumping his entire lunch tray on the head of an eighth grader who insults Mai Thi by insisting she eats rats and saying, "Why don't you go back home where you can find some [Rat Surprise]" ("March").
Similarly, Mai Thi demonstrates bravery by trying to assimilate into her new American culture while having to face racial prejudice. Mrs. Bigio is particularly guilty of racial discrimination because she blames the Vietnamese for her husband's recent death, as seen when she says the following to Mai Thi just before the holidays:
You shouldn't even be here, sitting like a queen in a refugee home while American boys are sitting in swamps on Christmas Day. They're the ones who should be here. Not you. ("December")
Yet, in the face of such discrimination, Mai Thi behaves bravely by holding in her tears until she can no longer take it. Mai Thi even demonstrates bravery when the two escaped rats, Sycorax and Caliban, terrorize the classroom. Mai Thi is the only one, aside from Mrs. Sidman, who stands ready to conquer the rats. Yet, her bravery leads to even more discrimination until Danny stands up for her. Soon, even Mrs. Bigio apologizes and invites Mai Thi to live with her.