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While a character whose early remarks are about "angry red numbers" and a dripping and warped house and a father in Afghanistan might incline a reader to think he is pessimistic, Marcus, the first-person narrator, is actually an optimistic young man. Optimism is defined as the disposition to evaluate and interpret circumstances by finding the best light in which to view them and the disposition to ascribe good motives and intentions to others. Reactions, remarks and attitudes that show Marcus to be optimistic will reflect this definition: he will naturally find a good way to interpret events and circumstances and he will naturally think the best of others' behavior and attitudes (there may be troubled spots for him, but this will be his natural disposition).
A great early instance that portrays Marcus as being optimistic occurs when he is describing where he lives with his mother and sister. While acknowledging the reality of their situation, Marcus is sensible of the benefit he derives from it that outweighs, at least in psychological ways, the problems of it. This is optimism that interprets situations in the best light so as to find the benefit within them.
Actually, that needed more that just light--it needed things like a tap that didn't leak, a countertop that wasn't warped, ... [a] floor that needed to be fixed ... It was cheap and it was on the base. I like living on the base much better than living outside ... there was something nice about living on the base and not civilians ...
Perhaps the most telling instance that demonstrates Marcus's natural optimism occurs in the exposition when he tells the things he and his mother do to adjust to their father and husband's being away in the Afghanistan war. One of these things is their morning coffee ritual: he makes it at the crack of dawn; she comes downstairs and pours it. Another is the little lies they agree to tell each other to deflect greater worry: they both say they sleep well and feel well. The other thing is that they tell each other goofy jokes that have sharp points to them so that they can spark a laugh and relive their feelings while maintaining their optimist outlooks and determination:
"You know, more people work for Wal-Mart than for the military," [she said.]
"Well, in that case maybe we should send Wal-Mart over to Afghanistan."
My mother laughed. It was a sound I didn't hear all that often these days, so it was almost like a mission for me to get a chuckle out of her.
"Can't you picture it?" I was getting warmed up. "We could send Wal-Mart greeters out in the mountains ... and they's be authorized to not only apprehend terrorists but roll back prices."
She laughed again.
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