The Wednesday Wars

by Gary Schmidt

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What is the theme of the chapter "February" in Gary Schmidt's The Wednesday Wars?

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In The Wednesday Wars, author Gary Schmidt uses references to Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, coupled with Holling's experiences with Meryl Lee Kowalski, to develop the central theme concerning human nature in the chapter titled "February." Throughout the chapter, Holling has some experiences with love and betrayal that help him understand Shakespeare's message concerning the fragility of human nature, which is also Schmidt's central theme for the chapter.

Soon after reading Romeo and Juliet for his independent class with Mrs. Baker on Wednesdays, Holling takes Meryl Lee Kowalski out on a Valetine's Day date. Even though their fathers' architectural firms are feuding for the contract from the school board to build the new junior high school, during the date, neither Holling nor Meryl Lee treat any topic of conversation as off limits and wind up sharing with each other what they know about their fathers' designs for the new school. Later, at the school board meeting arranged to choose the new school design, a meeting Mr. Hoodhood makes Holling attend, Holling is shocked to witness Merly Lee's father, Mr. Kowalski of Kowalski and Associates, present to the school board Holling's own father's design, the same design Holling had shared with Meryl Lee. Holling at first assumes Meryl Lee had intentionally used him to steal the design but soon comes to realize her own father betrayed her and that she is innocent. During the time Holling feels betrayed, he interprets Shakespeare's message in Romeo and Juliet as being "be careful who you trust" in order to show his readers that betrayal is a part of human nature. However, once Holling realizes Meryl Lee is innocent, Holling reinterprets Shakespeare in a way that reveals the central theme of the chapter:

What Shakespeare wanted to express about being a human being in Romeo and Juliet is that it's hard to care about two things at the same time--like caring about the Montague family and caring about Juliet, too. ("February")

In other words, Holling is showing us that, because human nature is so fragile, we feel torn when we must choose where to place our loyalties if we care about two separate things at the same time, just as Meryl Lee cares about both Holling and her own father at the same time and tries to be loyal to both. More importantly, because we are so frail, we are apt to make a mistake in choosing loyalties, which can have dire consequences, just as Meryl Lee mistakenly trusted her father enough to show Holling's drawing of his father's design simply because she was proud of Holling's skills. In short, through Holling's interpretation of Romeo and Juliet, we learn the central theme of the chapter is that human nature is so fragile human beings are prone to love easily, make mistakes, betray each other, and be betrayed.

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What is the main theme of the January chapter of The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt?

Each chapter of The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt is a month in Holling Hoodhood's seventh-grade year. January starts as a difficult month for Holling. First, when everyone comes...

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back to school, Holling discovers that Doug Swieteck's brother has taken a photo of him from the newspaper--dressed as Ariel in yellow tights, blue floral cape, and white feathers and flying through the air--and hung them up everywhere in the school. Literally, they are everywhere, including the bathrooms. 

While Holling is proud to have been in the theater production, he is certainly not thrilled that this particular picture is plastered all over the school. In fact, he wants to transfer to a military school; ironically, his sister, Heather, constantly fights with Holling but supports him in this decision. Mr. Hoodhood, of course, will not even consider allowing his son to leave the school because his architectural firm is bidding on the contract to build a new junior high school building. 

Holling continues his Shakespeare reading with Macbeth, but Holling's insensitivity to Mrs. Baker's feelings during their discussion causes Holling to feel bad and Mrs. Baker to ignore him for the rest of the week. The beginning of January brings terrible weather, but school is not canceled because standardized tests have been scheduled and the principal, Mr. Guareschi, is adamant that the tests will go on--even when their is no electricity for lights or heat. Holling endures the examinations. 

The weather is bad, and Holling is on his way home when a skidding bus is about to hit his sister; he manages to save her (for which she is quite grateful), but Holling gets side-swiped (rear-swiped) by the bus and needs to go to the emergency room. Mrs. Baker and Mr. Guareschi take him, but when Mrs. Baker calls his parents, they are not interested enough to come to the hospital to check on Holling (a fact which infuriates Mrs. Baker, of course).

In a kind of bookend to the newspaper articles which Holling was forced to endure at the beginning of the chapter, Holling's picture is in the newspaper again. He is seen leaping in the air (just like Ariel was) to save his sister, and the pictures are plastered all over the school once again, only this time Holling is hailed as a hero by everyone. 

One last pair of "bookend" events is the falling-in of the ceiling of the piano room (the most perfect room in the Perfect House) due to water damage at Holling's house and the bulging-ready-to-fall ceiling in Mrs. Baker's classroom due to the rascally actions of Sycorax and Caliban.

Mr. Hoodhood also wins the Chamber of Commerce Businessman of the Year Award, as expected.

The theme of this chapter has to be the concept Holling and Mrs. Baker talk about during their Macbeth discussion. She claims that Shakespeare's goal was to "express something about what it means to be a human being." The discussion turns to malice, the seeking of revenge, being a "small and petty thing." Of course Holling had just been the victim of Doug Swieteck's picture-hanging campaign, so when Mrs. Baker makes the point that people will soon forget, Holling says:

"it's not like it's your picture in the halls, or that you have all that much to worry about." 

Of course Mrs. Baker was right, and this chapter proves it to Holling. Just weeks ago, Holling's embarrassment was such that he wanted to change schools; now he is hailed as a hero. Malice is, indeed, a "small and petty thing," and people's attention is fickle. 

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What is author Gary Schmidt's main message in The Wednesday Wars?

Gary Schmidt's main message in The Wednesday Wars is to show that personal growth develops as a consequence of defeat, just as Holling grew from defeat.Schmidt's message is first revealed when Holling reads The Tempest in November, which became one of Holling's favorite plays and led to many moments of personal growth. Mrs. Baker reveals the message when she explains to Holling that Shakespeare uses Caliban to show that a part of human nature "uses defeat to grow." At first, Holling objects to her assertion, saying, "Defeat doesn't help you grow. ... It's just defeat." Yet, the more Holling experiences his own defeats and rises above them, the more he sees he was wrong.One defeat of Holling's that he considers to be his most humiliating is having his picture taken playing Ariel in The Tempest, dressed in yellow tights decorated with white feathers on the backside.  Holling's photograph is proudly displayed on the cover page of the town's newspaper on New Year's Day. Worse yet, Doug Swieteck's brother decides to plaster clippings of the picture all over the town's schools, making Holling feel like a humiliated, defeated failure.Though Holling feels defeated, he finds a way to rise above his defeat. First, he tries to revenge himself on Doug Swieteck's brother by pelting him with an icy snowball. The taste of revenge, however, doesn't last long, because Holling is soon threatened with being pelted with snowballs by not just Doug Swieteck's brother but all of his juvenile delinquent friends as well. Luckily, at the exact moment Holling is about to be pelted, his sister is also about to get hit by a school bus sliding out of control on the icy road. Holling flies to her rescue and pushes her out of the way but is hit in the backside by the bus's rear bumper. Holling's rescue mission is also caught on film and published on the front page of the town's newspaper. Holling arrives at school the next day to discover someone had replaced the humiliating photo that plastered the schools with his new heroic photo. Hence, based on this story, we can see that Holling successfully used his love for his sister and his integrity to overcome his defeat and grew as a consequence of the experience. Throughout the book, Holling overcomes many other defeats as well.

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What is the theme of Gary Schmidt's The Wednesday Wars?

The central theme in Gary Schmidt's The Wednesday Wars concerns personal growth. Throughout the story, Schmidt shows us that personal growth can only come from overcoming internal and external battles.Holling begins battling an internal conflict when he starts feeling hated at school, first by his seventh-grade English teacher then by his classmates. His feeling of being hated develops into an internal conflict when he receives no support at home for his problem; instead, he is forced to hide his problem. For example, his father warns him that if he does anything wrong to make Mrs. Baker hate him, his father's architecture firm, Hoodhood and Associates, could lose the contract to redesign the Baker Sporting Emporium. Holling's internal conflict further develops when, after telling his sister, "Mrs. Baker hates my guts," she responds by saying, "Then, Holling, you might try getting some [guts]," which is exactly what he does. As the story progresses and Holling begins growing closer to Mrs. Baker through their Shakespeare lessons, Holling starts applying Shakespeare's lessons to his own life and growing braver. He grows so brave he is able to stand up to his father by asserting he thinks that becoming a man is deciding who you want to be.Aside from facing the internal conflict of feeling hated yet needing to keep his problems a secret, Holling grows as a result of external conflicts as well. For example, he is able to successfully acquire cream puffs for his classmates when threatened with death if he doesn't procure them; he is able to overcome the humiliation of being bullied by Doug Swieteck's brother; and he is able to help his sister in different ways. All of these accomplishments help Holling achieve personal growth.

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What is the theme of The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt?

This story has multiple themes, but if I had to pick one quite prevalent theme, it would be the theme of family. Holling's family is not a great family, so this theme doesn't exactly scream at readers at first. Holling's dad is never a great father. He's constantly focused on himself and his work, and his kids never get any of his love or attention. Holling's mom isn't a strong enough person to not fully support her husband, and Heather is constantly making cutting remarks to Holling. A great deal of the story is about Holling longing for and wanting that real sense of family. His parents don't ever fill that need, but Mrs. Baker does. She doesn't become a mother or father figure to Holling, but she does become much more than his teacher. She loves him, supports him, offers him advice, and even reprimands him. Mrs. Baker has Holling's best interests in her mind, and Holling reciprocates those feelings and actions. As the story develops, so does Holling's relationship with his sister. He saves her life from the skidding bus, and her icy attitude toward Holling begins to thaw. It's Holling that makes major efforts to get Heather home after she runs away, and the story ends with showing readers that they love and support each other. By the end of the story, readers can see that Holling's family is in a better place than it was at the start of the book.

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