What is the summary for A Fistful of Fig Newtons?

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katwood001 | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

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Jean Shepherd is best known for being the narrator and author of the modern American Christmas classic, A Christmas Story (which was based on his book published in 1966 In God We Trust, and All Others Pay Cash).  Sheppard was a radio host who told stories of his past on the radio. He later published the stories with many of his books appearing on the National Best Sellers List. A Fistful of Fig Newtons was the last of his anecdotal stories of his childhood and early adulthood during and after the war. It is important to note that Sheppard was vague on the truthfulness of his accounts.    

"Large parts of the following are fiction; other parts are based on fact. Still others are pure mythology. Some characters are real, others are figments of a harassed imagination. To the real, I apologize. To the others, the back of my hand."   Jean Shepherd, The Ferrari in the Bedroom

The story once again revolves around Ralphie Parker (now known as Ralph.) The entire story takes place within the Lincoln Tunnel as Ralph travels from New York to New Jersey. Ralph becomes stuck in the tunnel as the traffic backs up, and he reviews the events of his life.

The first story involves Ralph in college after leaving the war.  Several young men in is dorm come into his room to eat his fig newtons.  The boys are challenged to a chocolate laxative-eating contest.  Umbaugh, the smartest of the three wins as Ralph and the football star, Big Al, run for the bathroom.  The result of the contest is the loss of the college football game the following day, because Big Al is too sick move.

The second story is about Ralph's summer camp experience.  The older campers bullied him during his first year there.  Between cleaning up the trash and helping in the kitchen, Ralph befriends a boy by the name of Skunk.  Skunk is a boy that is ignored by the rest of the camp.  During the treasure hunt, to Ralph's (and everyone surprise) Skunk find the treasure and wins the hunt for Ralph's cabin.

Ralph is pulled out of his memory as a car begins to tailgate him.  He cannot pull forward because a truck full of demolished cars is in front of him.  The car's remind him of an experience when he was in the military.  One of his friends in the military left the train car to buy beers.  The train begins moving and his friend ends up missing the train.  A passing van changes his thought process to thinking about the difference between people who travel in vans to people who travel in campers.  The comparison moves from thoughts to a pretend lecture on society.  

Ralph's mind switches to working for an advertising company and trying to write an article for a car company.  He begins thinking about the problems in selling lemons by reflecting on a conversation with an executive.  The following sequence is an entertaining reflection on the difficulties of selling lemons and anything else.  Ralph reflects that anyone looking up modern American culture and judging it based on its commercials would be caught between dismay and disappointment.

Once again, Ralph reflects on his childhood.  He thinks back to school, where he blames his inability to do math to the fact he was always in the back of the classroom.  He remembers the miracle that led him to pass his class.  The teacher had an algebra equation on the board.  To his and the teacher's surprise, he manages to figure the right answer- or maybe it was just a good guess.

He then thinks about the ice cream price war that happened in his hometown.  A big chain store had entered the town.  The owner out of sheer persistence and a willingness to give away the ice cream for practically free, finally under-prices the chain store to the point of closing.

Ralph's last memory is about being released from the army.  On his first New Years after being released, he goes out for the evening.  He has a date with the local reverend's daughter.  Thinking it will be a very sober evening, he is surprised when she wants to go to a local bar.  He follows and is equally surprised as she proceeds to get drunk.  At last, after loud frolicking, she finally passes out, and Ralph is faced with returning her to her father.  The book ends as Ralph exits the Lincoln Tunnel and enters New Jersey.  

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