What is the theme for "The Gryphon" by Charles Baxter?
I believe that the central theme of "The Gryphon" is unorthodoxy; its positive and negative aspects, and especially its effect on children. Miss Ferenczi, the mysterious and eccentric substitute teacher who is the focus of the narrative, is unlike no one the students have ever seen; her hairdo is bizarre, and she wears tinted glasses and carries a purple purse and a checkered lunchbox. Miss Ferenczi's unorthodoxy extends far beyond her appearance, howeve. In an educational system which stresses rote memorization of facts, she teaches through storytelling, and by relating events from her own experience. Miss Ferenczi challenges the students to think through and beyond the information they are given in their textbooks, which would seem to stimulate in them a needed sense of creativity and freedom. The substitute teacher's methods, however, also expose the students to danger, as she is revealed to be increasingly unstable, and ends up essentially messing with their minds, telling them that seven times eleven might be sixty-eight, and predicting the death of one of the students through the use of tarot cards.
In exploring the nature of unorthodoxy, especially as it relates to the education of children, the author poses many questions, to which he does not provide answers. Given that learning through sheer memorization of facts is not enough, how much freedom is advisable? When does unorthodoxy cross the line from stimulating creativity to causing absolute and destructive chaos?