How does the Vietnam War affect Holling's life in Gary Schmidt's The Wednesday Wars?

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In Gary Schmidt's The Wednesday Wars, Holling's life is affected the most by the Vietnam War the moment he learns Mrs. Baker's husband has been declared missing in action . Up to that point, no one close to him had been personally affected by the war, so he...

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In Gary Schmidt's The Wednesday Wars, Holling's life is affected the most by the Vietnam War the moment he learns Mrs. Baker's husband has been declared missing in action. Up to that point, no one close to him had been personally affected by the war, so he is able to view it only from a distance as just something noteworthy happening in the world.

It is in the opening chapter of the book that Mr. Guareschi, the school principle, announces to Holling's school that Lieutenant Tybalt Baker, Mrs. Baker's husband, "would soon be deployed to Vietnam with the 101st Airborne Division" ("September"). Immediately after this announcement, Holling observes with little interest as his father watches Walter Cronkite report the news on the war. Early in the story, Holling is more concerned about his own personal problems than about the war.

His interest in the war changes in the month of February. During this month, on a day when Meryl Lee and Holling are cleaning the chalkboards after school together, Mr. Guareschi enters Mrs. Baker's classroom to hand her a yellow telegram that declares Lieutenant Baker to be missing in action near the Khesanh base. By March, Walter Cronkite announces on TV how grim the situation is at the Khesanh base. As many as 5,000 marines were trapped on the base, surrounded by 20,000 Vietcong soldiers, who shot at all helicopters that came to deliver supplies to the troops. The Vietcong also launched 500 mortar shells per day and laid explosives in tunnels they dug. During March, Holling's entire family starts watching Walter Cronkite on the news together, and each time Holling watches, he looks for a "sign, any sign of Lieutenant Tybalt Baker" ("March"). Holling's serious devotion to watching the news on the war and his constant thoughts of Lieutenant Baker show us just how much he has been emotionally affected by the war since growing close to Mrs. Baker and learning about her husband being declared missing in action.

At another point in the story, while visiting Saint Adelbert's Catholic Church with Mrs. Baker, Holling lights a candle and "pray[s] for Lieutenant Baker," showing us just how deeply affected he has become by the loss of the loved one of a person close to him ("May").

By the end of the novel, the war is still not over, and Holling reflects that in just five years time he will be old enough to be drafted, a thought that disturbs him so much he stays awake all night.

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