From The Human Comedy by William Saroyan, is there any significance attached to the fact that Tobey was a limping soldier and Homer got a limp from running the hurdles?

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Human Comedy by William Saroyan follows the trials and tribulations of life for the Macauley family, coping during World War II (WW2) and the significance of some of the seemingly mundane activities as Homer Macauley, the fourteen-year old schoolboy who gets a job in the telegraph office, must be the bearer of bad news in delivering the dreaded telegram from The War Department. 

Homer, from a poor family, runs against Hubert Ackley III a boy clearly from the better part of town, in the school hurdles. The boys, initially antagonistic, have an unspoken respect for each other, despite the somewhat prejudiced Mr Byfield, the sports' coach. Homer is limping after Mr Byfield tried to stop him from beating Hubert by running straight into him during the race. Homer has barely had time to consider his injury due to his concerns about getting to work on time and worrying about his young brother Ulysses, who has become trapped in an animal trap for sale in a local store. 

The significance of the injury to Homer's leg is, for Homer, another indication that he must try harder. He even dreams how he jumps over an eight-meter high hurdle and Byfield cannot stop him. Homer works through the pain, dismissing his injury. He cannot hate Byfield. He cannot contemplate hating anyone but when Marcus, his brother dies he is angry and questions everything - "Who's the enemy?" (ch 38) It is further significant that the very next chapter begins with Tobey, "the limping soldier."

Homer and Tobey, both affected by Marcus's death must somehow cope. They must both carry on and be strong for the Macauley family. Both boys appear to ignore their limp as best they can and the fact that they both limp reveals how the effects of war are felt by everyone; soldiers, family, children but there's always hope and there's the expectation that the injury - or Marcus's death - will be worth something and was not in vain.  

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The Human Comedy

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