What role did Holling have in the play, The Tempest, and what was his biggest concern about playing it in Wednesday Wars?
Holling is assigned to play the role of Ariel in the play The Tempest. He is horrified to have been given the part because he feels playing it would expose him to the ridicule of his peers.
Holling is a seventh-grader in Vietnam War era New York. Like most seventh-graders, life is a never-ending struggle to fit in. He has already been set apart from his classmates because he is the only one who is not either Catholic or Jewish. He also has a high tenor singing voice and has been given the role of singing soprano in the choir. Holling thinks that playing Ariel in The Tempest would seal his fate as the butt of incessant teasing at the hands of his contemporaries.
"I was going to play Ariel from The Tempest. Ariel is a fairy. A fairy! Let me tell you, it is not a good thing for a boy from Camillo Junior High to play a fairy. Especially a boy who has been singing soprano for Miss Violet..."
He is further appalled when he is given his costume. Ariel must wear
"a pair of bright yellow tights with white feathers on the...well, I'll let you guess what part the white feathers were attached to."
Homosexuality was completely taboo at the time the story takes place, in the late 1960s or early 1970s. People did not talk about it, and it was the worst of insults for a young boy of junior high age to be accused of being less than a man. Besides that fact, however, the sheer ludicrousness of having to cavort around the stage as a sprite, dressed in a costume which looks, at best, silly, would require a good deal of courage for a boy in junior high ("November").