How does the media coverage of the Vietnam War affect the characters in Gary Schmidt's The Wednesday Wars?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Gary Schmidt's The Wednesday Wars, two characters the media coverage of the Vietnam War affects the most are Holling and his sister Heather.

At first, Holling ignores the news coverage given by Walter Cronkite and is annoyed by his father's obsession with the news reports. However, as Holling grows closer to Mrs. Baker, the media coverage affects him more. Towards the beginning of the book, we learn that Mrs. Baker's husband, Tybalt Baker, has been drafted into the 101st Airborne Division. By February of the story, Mrs. Baker receives a telegram reporting that Lieutenant Baker is "MISSING IN ACTION" near the Khesanh marine base, which was surrounded by the Vietcong. Soon after learning Mrs. Baker's husband is missing, Holling begins devotedly watching Walter Cronkite report on the war every night with his family. As he watches, he "hop[es] for a sign, any sign of Lieutenant Tybalt Baker" ("March").

Mr. and Mrs. Hoodhood show some anxiety about the news reports of the war, especially when they learn that five thousand US Marines are trapped on the Khesanh base, surrounded by twenty-thousand Vietcong soldiers; however, Heather, Holling's sister, is the one who is stirred to express the most anger about and fear of the war. As a high school student, Heather is influenced to become involved in the flower child movement, a movement that expressed belief in "peace and understanding and freedom" and protested against the Vietnam War ("October"). At one point in the story, when Holling becomes humiliated enough to think of going to military school, Heather expresses her fear of losing her brother to the war by saying that the "next stop after military school is Saigon"; she continues further to talk about how the news reports "two hundred soldiers" dying in the war every single week ("January"). She ends by saying, "I couldn't stand it if ... " ("January"). Though Heather is unable to finish her thought, we know she is thinking of how dreadful it would be if she lost her brother to the terrible war, and we know her knowledge of the war has been influenced by media coverage.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial