Nothing but the Truth: A Documentary Novel

by Avi
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What are some examples of sub-conflicts within the novel Nothing But the Truth?

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Nothing But the Truth: A Documentary Novel (by award-winning young adult novelist Edward Irving Wortis, using the pen name "Avi") tells the story of a boy's suspension from the fictional Harrison High School in New Hampshire. The prose style is epistolary, comprising a series of letters and memos dated to specific school days. The protagonist, Philip Malloy, is unable to participate in track (his favorite sport) owing to poor grades in an English class. The interpersonal conflict between Philip and his English teacher, Ms. Narwin, exacerbates into a conflict involving several others in the school and larger community.

Because of his resentment toward Ms. Narwin (who didn't give Philip a passing grade in her English class), Philip hums the National Anthem to disrupt her class. After Philip is asked to be silent for three consecutive days, the school principal (Dr. Joseph Palleni) gives Philip an opportunity to apologize to Ms. Narwin. When he refuses, school policy mandates that he be suspended from school for two days.

When Philip tells his parents that he was suspended from school for "singing the National Anthem," his father in turn tells school board candidate Ted Griffen. Griffen facilitates an interview between Philip and a local journalist, who twists the article to suggest that the school stifled Philip's patriotism. The local article generates national attention, which coincides with Griffen's election to the school board. When Griffen is elected (using Philip's story for notoriety), he cuts Harrison High School's funding.

Ms. Narwin has been discreetly asked to leave her English teaching position. This results in a conflict between Philip and his would-be girlfriend, Allison Doresett, who resents him for his deceitful behavior that caused the dismissal of Ms. Narwin. Philip also foments conflict among the larger student body, which has started a petition to coerce Philip into confessing his belligerent behavior in the incident. Philip's classmate reveals that it was in fact the track coach, Coach Jamison, who suggested such a petition, which was allegedly being spearheaded by Philip's former crush, Allison.

In addition to conflict among Philip and his teachers, peers, and coaches, conflicts arise between Philip's parents, who disagree about using savings to send him to private school. There is also ample conflict among the Harrison High School faculty. The school superintendent (Dr. Seymour) and vice principal (Dr. Doane) are forced to deny Ms. Narwin funds requested for a professional development course, owing to the school's looming budget cuts, despite her generally good rapport and long tenure at the school. There is also conflict between the superintendent (Dr. Seymour) and the school board candidate (Ted Griffen), because Ted both threatens budget cuts to the school and sensationalizes the incident surrounding Philip and the National Anthem. Among this unique novel's many themes is the demonstration that small conflicts can escalate dramatically and involve unwitting and unwilling victims.

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