How are Mr. Maxwell and Mark different in A Week in the Woods by Andrew Clements?

Expert Answers
Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In most ways, Mr. Maxwell and Mark Robert Chelmsley are nothing alike in A Week in the Woods by Andrew Clements. Of course there are a few obvious things: one is an adult and one is a boy, one is a teacher and one is a student, and one has lived in New Hampshire for the past three years while the other has lived in New York. Beyond that, however, there are a few more significant differences between them, at least in the beginning. 

First, Mr. Maxwell has passion about something--the A Week in the Woods event that he sponsors. Though Mark has many things since he grew up in a rich and privileged family, he is rather jaded and does not feel or express excitement about anything. Ironically, when Mark begins to transform, he, too, begins to develop a passion for the outdoors.

Mr. Maxwell is quite reliable and Mark is not, at least not at first. Mr. Maxwell sees Mark as a spoiled slacker, and it is an apt description. While Mr. Maxwell works hard to get this special week ready, Mark does not even want to exert himself enough to do well in school, despite the fact that he is perfectly capable of doing so and has excelled in the past. Again, as the story progresses, Mark begins to apply himself to his new interest and becomes more like his teacher as he does. Eventually Mr. Maxwell is forced to rely on Mark to save his life, and Mark does not disappoint him.

Finally, the two characters do not share a love and respect for the outdoors. As mentioned above, this is something Mark develops over time once he starts living in New Hampshire, but it is a significant difference between them for much of the novel. Mark disdains living in the country until he comes to appreciate it. For Mr. Maxwell, A Week in the Woods is something he wants to share with all his students.

[He] wanted the fifth-graders to have an outdoors experience they would remember all their lives.

Though it changes, Mark's initial reaction to spending a week in the outdoors is less than enthusiastic.

In truth, though these two characters do not have much in common at the beginning of the story, they are certainly more alike than different by the end of the novel.