Throughout the book, José and Coach prove themselves to be loyal and trustworthy friends to Eddie. Describe how this is shown without ever being stated. What role do these characters play in each other's lives? What is the significance of the fishing trip?

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José is the brother that Eddie needs. The two share a history which began in junior high school when they formed their “first peewee gang.” When he first sees Eddie’s apartment, José is in disbelief at the squalor that his friend calls home. After asking Eddie when he had last eaten, Jose takes Eddie out to buy him breakfast. His talk of how being in the marines has straightened him out is promising to Eddie, who is looking for direction. Ultimately, Eddie’s decision to join the Navy is prompted not only by his need to escape Angel’s revenge, but also by his respect for José .

José and Eddie rely on each other when they are in trouble. For example, Eddie makes sure Jose goes to the hospital when he is knifed; he also risks his own safety to visit him to be sure he is alright. Angel can strike at any moment, and the hospital would be an easy place for him to attack Eddie. In addition, Eddie knows that José's family will blame him, just as he blames himself, for the attack on José. Nevertheless, Eddie still goes to the hospital several times. José is just as loyal. When Eddie shows up at his door after his fight with Angel, José helps him to care for his wounds. He also stands up to his mother who wants to throw Eddie out of the house because she thinks he’s bad luck for her son. Also, José asks Eddie to come with him to the hospital to have his stitches removed. Of course, Eddie agrees, even though he can barely move. Even though Eddie is not medically assessed by anyone at the hospital, perhaps this is José's way of taking care of his “brother”: he places him in a situation where he can get help if he chooses.

Coach is also an important figure in Eddie’s life, functioning as his father-figure. Eddie says, “To lay open my heart with all its problems, I could have gone to a priest.” But instead he goes to Coach, who will listen without judging and who can be trusted. Coach’s solution to Eddie’s problem with Mr. Stiles is to call the man and tell him who Eddie really is—a good person. Coach has consistently been in Eddie’s life and, in a way, has helped to raise him. Eddie says that Coach knew most of the neighborhood kids from when they were very young: “He knew our problems, which were his not long ago. He knew that we needed fresh air and distance from the little shop of horrors we created for ourselves.” He can relate to Eddie’s conflicts and he tries to find ways to help Eddie deal with them.

The fishing trip is one way that Coach removes Eddie from his private hell. A male bonding experience, the trip is cathartic for the men—especially for Eddie. He tells José and Coach about his trip to the Navy recruiting office and that he has doubts. They discuss José's attack. They swim together, which reminds Eddie that Coach is the one who originally taught him to swim. They trade stories about tattoos. They are lazy together. Overall, the trip is exactly what Eddie needs to give him perspective on his problems and to get away from them for a little while.

Eddie states, “All my life everyone was pulling away from me.” The two who are always there when he needs someone to lean on are José and Coach.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
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