The Wednesday Wars

by Gary Schmidt

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What conflicts are in Gary Schmidt's The Wednesday Wars?

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Conflicts in Gary Schmidt's The Wednesday Wars include the Vietnam War and Holling's initial conflict with Mrs. Baker. Other conflicts occur between Holling and Meryl Lee and between Holling's sister and their father.

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The big conflict which hovers in the background of The Wednesday Wars is the Vietnam war, in which Holling's teacher, Mrs. Baker's husband, has been sent to fight. This is an ongoing source of angst for Mrs. Baker, who has to endure a difficult time after being told that her husband is missing in action.

For Holling himself, a big conflict with Mrs. Baker arises early in the novel when she is told to watch him during periods at school in which every other pupil is attending either Hebrew lessons or catechism. At first, it is clear that Mrs. Baker is not keen on accepting this responsibility, but this conflict lter gets resolved when Holling and Mrs. Baker get to know one another and actually become very supportive of one another.

Conflict arises between Holling and his love-interest, Meryl Lee, after they discuss an architectural concept that HOlling's father has been working on. Meryl Lee then shares the information with her father, which results in him getting the conflict and Holling and Meryl Lee getting in a big fight.

There is also conflict in Holling's family, which comes to boiling point when his sister is told she cannot attend Columbia, which results in her attempting to run away to California. Holling plays a significant role in solving this conflict by wiring her bus money to get home after her plans go awry.

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The Wednesday Wars is full of conflicts that surround the protagonist, Holling Hoodhood. One conflict that we are introduced to fairly early on in the book is the external conflict that exists between Holling and Doug Sweiteck’s brother. Sweiteck's brother is a bully through and through; however, Holling especially earns this guy's anger when he trips him during a pick up game of soccer.

Another conflict in the book is the conflict that exists between Holling and his sister, Heather. The book presents her as a stereotypical angst-filled, rebellious teenager. Pretty much everything about her family bothers her. The Hoodhood parents aren't going to win any awards for parenting, so it would make sense that Holling and Heather could likely share a bond; however, Heather is just as antagonistic to Holling as she is to her parents. The relationship slowly gets better throughout the book, and Heather finally sheds her hard heart after Holling is the one family member that works hard to get her to come back home.

A third conflict is the conflict between Holling and Mrs. Baker. When the story first begins, Mrs. Baker isn't thrilled to have to supervise Holling every Wednesday afternoon, and Holling flat-out believes that she hates him. His feelings aren't without evidence either. She makes him do all kinds of menial labor in her classroom to occupy his time. The relationship goes through drastic changes as the story progresses, and Holling and Mrs. Baker become each other's biggest cheerleader.

Another conflict that the story continually hints at is the Vietnam War. While readers aren't told any battlefield stories, we do get to see Mrs. Baker struggle with not knowing what is happening to her husband that has been sent there to fight.

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The central conflict in Gary Schmidt's The Wednesday Wars is an internal conflict within the protagonist Holling Hoodhood. Holling is not brave enough to stand his ground and, as a result, feels hated, bullied, and humiliated at school and neglected by his own father at home. As the story progresses, Holling develops bravery to the point that he can stand up to his father. Additionally, there are many minor external conflicts within the story, especially character vs. character conflicts.

One character vs. character conflict occurs between Holling and Meryl Lee Kowalksi after Holling takes her on their Valentine's Day date. While waiting for Meryl Lee's father to arrive at Woolworth's, Holling and Meryl Lee begin chatting about the designs their fathers are working on for the new junior high school. Their fathers are rivals, but neither Meryl Lee nor Holling see any danger in talking about their fathers' plans. Holling even draws out his father's design to show her, and she keeps his sketch. When Holling accompanies his father at the meeting of the school board to choose the design, Holling is shocked to see Mr. Kowalski present a combination of his own design and Mr. Hoodhood's—a classic exterior with a very modern interior:

No pillars, no straight walls. The roof a series of glass plates above the science and art rooms ("February").

Holling feels betrayed by Meryl Lee and thinks their date was only a setup for Meryl Lee to steal the design. Meryl Lee explains she showed her father Holling's drawing "because it was so good" and had no idea he would actually steal it. Holling believes her when he sees she has been crying all day and makes amends.

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What is one external conflict found in The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt?

One of the most obvious external conflicts in The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt is the Vietnam War, which serves at the backdrop for the entire novel. Characters lose loved ones (or, like Mrs. Baker, have loved ones who are deemed Missing in Action) and have philosophical differences about the war, like Heather Hoodhood and her father.

In a more personal sense to the characters in this novel, the conflict between seventh-grader Holling Hoodhood and Doug Sweiteck’s brother is a consistent external conflict throughout the story. Holling says this about the older bully:

I think something must happen to you when you get into eighth grade. Like the Doug Swieteck's Brother Gene switches on and you become a jerk.

The older boy is a bully and constantly torments Holling, though Holling does get in a few good jabs of his own. Doug Sweiteck’s brother rather threatens Holling into playing soccer at recess one day, and Holling ends up tripping the eighth-grader (who smashes his head into the goal and suffers a concussion). Another time, Holling is able to pelt Doug Sweiteck's brother (who never has another name) in the face with a snowball without the older boy knowing for sure that it was him. In between, however, the older boy torments Holling every time he can, including the incident where Doug Sweiteck's brother posts colorful but embarrassing photos of Holling in his Ariel costume (yellow tights with white feathers on the rear) all over the school for days.

These two external conflicts are a consistent presence throughout the novel. 

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