The Wednesday Wars

by Gary Schmidt

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How does Holling Hoodhood evolve in The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt?

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Gary Schmidt portrays Holling Hoodhood as a dynamic character by showing the changes that he undergoes over nine months, as well as by having Holling tell his own story. Positioning Holling as the first-person narrator allows the reader to see his insights into his own attitudes and behavior, not just the behavior alone from an outsider’s perspective. Becoming more insightful is actually one of Holling’s biggest changes.

The structure of the book also helps the reader see Holling’s dynamism. During each month, a series of small but important alterations occur, and in each subsequent month, Holling’s experiences and reactions build on those of the previous month. This structure shows the ebb and flow of change in Holling’s heart and mind as well as his environment. The author might have chosen instead to keep Holling rather static and then undergo an epiphany at the end, which might have been more suspenseful but would be less realistic than the way the plot unfolds.

Holling’s frustration with the educational system is one place that his dynamism is revealed. In each month, as he reads a different Shakespeare play, Holling gains insights into different kinds of human relations. He is shown to be both smart and sensitive enough to apply the play’s lessons to his own life. While some of the credit goes to his teacher, Mrs. Baker, for choosing the right play for him to interpret, Holling does the hard work of interpreting each play but also retains what he learned and applies it to the next play he reads and the next phase of his life. In this way, each month, he becomes more capable of untangling the complex web of relations in his own family, building a stronger relationship with his sister and learning how to withstand their father’s criticisms and empathize with his insecurities.

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Dynamic characters are characters that undergo some kind of change over the course of the story. The change is typically due to conflicts that the character works through. He or she learns from those conflicts, experiences, mistakes, etc. and changes because of them. Holling Hoodhood is definitely a dynamic character in this story because he ends the novel a much happier and confident person. When we are introduced to Holling, he thinks Mrs. Baker hates his guts, and he is afraid to stand up to his father. By the time the novel ends, Mrs. Baker is no longer viewed as the enemy. In fact, he trusts her probably more than anybody else. She has become a loving teacher, caring adviser, and respected mentor. Part of that relationship change is because Mrs. Baker is portrayed as a dynamic character too; however, keep in mind that this story is being narrated by Holling. As he changes and his opinions of Mrs. Baker change, it makes sense that he would begin presenting her differently too. In regards to Holling standing up to his father, this doesn't happen with a huge confrontation and lots of yelling. Holling's sister, Heather, ran away and got herself stranded. Mr. Hoodhood wasn't about to lift a finger to help her out, and he wasn't willing to let his wife do it either. Holling knows the right thing to do is to defy his father and help out a family member, and that is exactly what Holling does. All throughout the story, readers have seen Holling toe the line when it comes to following his father's orders, but Holling simply isn't willing to do it anymore. It's a wonderfully triumphant moment for readers to read about, and we know that his relationship with Heather has been forever changed because of his actions.

One other example of Holling's dynamic characterization occurs with Meryl Lee. At one point in the book, Holling is convinced that she manipulated him and fooled him into giving away his dad's designs for a project. Holling eventually realizes that Meryl Lee didn't do anything intentionally. He feels terrible about it and works hard to restore the relationship. A static character wouldn't display this kind of change of heart.

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A dynamic character is one who changes throughout the story as a result of overcoming the conflict of the story. Since the protagonist is the character who battles against and overcomes the conflict, a protagonist will always be a dynamic character. In Gary Schmidt's The Wednesday Wars, protagonist Holling Hoodhood is a dynamic character because he changes as a result of overcoming the central conflict, which concerns his lack of bravery. We see Holling change in many ways as he develops into a braver person. One way in which we see him change concerns his relationship with his sister, Heather Hoodhood.

At the start of the story, when Holling goes to his sister to tell her he thinks his teacher, Mrs. Baker, "hates [his] guts," Heather gives the following reply:

Then, Holling, you might try getting some [guts]. ("September")

All throughout the story, getting guts, meaning developing courage, is exactly what Holling does.

One way in which Holling demonstrates courage is by rescuing his sister from being hit by a school bus that was sliding out of control on the icy road. He rescues her a second time towards the end of the novel, a rescue moment which also brings them closer together.

Tired of being belittled and thwarted by her father, who won't let her attend Columbia University, Heather leaves for California with her hippie boyfriend Chit in order to "find herself" ("May"). Soon, Heather phones her brother to report that she is stranded in Minneapolis, without Chit and with only four dollars, which would certainly not be enough to buy a bus ticket to New York City for $44.55. Holling decides to cash the $100 savings bond he won for coming in first place at the Salibury Park cross-country race. He then wires it to his sister at Western Union. His sister arrives at the Port Authority in New York City late Saturday morning. Their father refuses to help Heather by "driving all the way into the city on a Saturday," but Meryl Lee calls, and her father offers to drive Holling to Port Authority. When his sister's bus arrives, Holling is there to help her get home. When they hug each other, she expresses worry that she wouldn't find Holling in New York, to which Holling replies:

I was standing right here, Heather. . . I'll always be standing right here ("May").

That night at dinner, Mr. Hoodhood asks Heather if she found herself. Holling further reveals their closeness, a major change for both Holling and Heather, by responding, "she found me."

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Is Heather Hoodhood in The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt a dynamic or static character?

I'm going to go with Heather Hoodhood being a static character.  She and Holling do manage to emotionally connect at the end of the novel, and the reader sees perhaps a glimmer of change in her; however, I think that possible change is more of a reflection of Holling's attitude toward his sister.  The entire novel is told in the first person perspective.  I think the emotional connection shared between Heather and Holling at the end of the novel results from Holling's dynamic change and not necessarily Heather's change.

Throughout the rest of the novel, readers see Heather as a very time period specific, cliche character.   She is a stereotypical, angst filled teenager that is in constant conflict with her parents.  Heather always has some snarky remark ready for Holling, and whenever something doesn't go her way, she locks herself into her room and loudly blasts The Monkees.  There are moments when she does show kindness to Holling.  For example, she helps Holling pull down the embarrassing posters of him in his Ariel costume.  But those moments are exceptions to her normal behavior.  They are not symbolic of some kind of overall, dynamic attitude shift in Heather.  In fact, I believe that Holling sees Heather as static as well.  I believe that is why Holling doesn't even feel the need to call her by name until the very end of the novel. 

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