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.