In Rita Williams-Garcia's One Crazy Summer, is the main character dynamic or static?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In literature, the main character, also called the protagonist, is the character upon which all plot development centers. The protagonist faces the conflict and continues to progress through the story until resolution is achieved. Typically, as part of achieving the resolution, the protagonist must undergo some change. Sometimes that change will be external to the character, related to the action of the story; other times, the change will be internal, related to "insight or understanding" or "changes in commitment, in values" (Kansas State University, Dr. Lyman A. Baker, "Critical Concepts: 'Static' and 'Dynamic' Characterization") . Hence, many protagonists will be dynamic characters as opposed to static characters. Dynamic characters change over the course of the story, usually as a result of resolving the conflict and that change will be an internal change as opposed to an external change. In contrast, static characters do not change but rather remain the same throughout the story. Typically, minor characters will more often than not be static characters.

In Rita Williams-Garcia's young reader's novel One Crazy Summer, 11-year-old protagonist Delphine Gaither, eldest of the three daughters visiting their mother, certainly does undergo internal changes, making her a dynamic character.

One change has to do with her transforming impression of the Black Panther movement. Once in Oakland, when her mother sends the children during the day to the People's Center, run by the Black Panthers, Delphine is at first apprehensive because she doesn't see the peace-loving face of Martin Luter King, Jr. hanging in the facility; she instead sees faces of guerrilla warfare revolutionaries like Che Guevara and Huey Newton. However, she soon realizes that the media has not been accurate in its portrayal of the Black Panther's. As Delphine informs the reader, the media "never showed anyone like Sister Mukumbu or Sister Pat, passing out toast and teaching in classrooms" (p. 87). Soon, the ideals of the Black Panther Movement take hold, and Delphine begins resisting what her father and grandmother have told her about being polite in order to act in a way that they should be respected and replacing the idea of politeness with a demand for respect. For example, when she and her sisters are eyeballed by a racist behind a counter of a gift shop in San Francisco because he expects them to steal, Delphine's response is to say, "We are citizens, and we demand respect" (p. 164).

A second change Delphine experiences concerns better understanding and growing closer to their mother. Delphine resents their mother for having abandoned them but develops more respect for their mother as Delphine witnesses her involvement in the movement. Though their mother refuses to tell Delphine until she is an adult all the reasons for her having left, Delphine feels she has come to understand her mother better. What's more her mother has encouraged her to be the 11-year-old child she truly is rather than a premature adult always needing to look after her sisters. Though Delphine knows she can't completely shirk her responsibilities of looking out for her sisters, being in Oakland has provided her an opportunity to feel what it's like to be a child for the first time in her life.

Hence, Delphine internally changes by learning new beliefs concerning the African-American struggle for civil rights, learning new things about their mother, growing closer to their mother, and accepting herself as just a child for the first time in her life, making her a clear example of a dynamic character.

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