What was significance of the Souls thrusting their arms and legs out as Ham returned to his seat in View From Saturday?Why did the author refer to this as a "Balancing Act"?

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Body language plays a huge part in the section in Chapter 6 which ends with the Souls thrusting their arms and legs out as Ham returns to his seat.  As Hamilton Knapp makes his way to the front of the room after disrupting the class with his theatrical burp, the "smiling faces (of the students) (lift) and (tilt) towards him like the broad front faces of sunflowers as they follow the sun across heaven".  Ham thinks he is in control of things at this point as he insolently obeys Mrs. Olinski's direction to proceed to the front of the class, and the students, through their body language, show their support of the upstart.  This time, however, Mrs. Olinski stands tough, and places Ham firmly in his place by putting him on the spot in front of his peers.  Mrs. Olinski, who had been uncertain about returning to teaching after her accident, has regained her confidence, and by neutralizing the troublemaker's challenge, shows clearly that now, it is she who is in charge of the class.  As Ham returns to his seat, the class reacts much differently than they had a few moments previously - now, "no one smile(s) at Ham or even (makes) eye contact with him".  Through their body language, the students make it plain that they defer to Mrs. Olinski's authority, and that Ham no longer has their support.

It is at this point that Nadia thrusts her left leg into the aisle, Noah follows suit with his right leg, Ethan raises his right arm in the air, and Julian raises his left fist.  Their action is perfectly orchestrated, and is over after only a moment; it would appear that their "balancing act" is an expression of solidarity and triumph.  The Souls had earlier seen Mrs. Olinski's uncertainty and vulnerability in the classroom, and had decided as a unit to give her the "lift" she needed, through their support, cooperation, and friendship.  Mrs. Olinski's assertiveness in taking charge of the class is a kind of victory for the Souls.  By working together, they have achieved a "balancing act" of the highest order; they have been able to achieve their objective of helping their teacher keep her own balance in the face of cruelty and adversity.  They had enabled her to learn once again to "stand on her own two feet".

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The View from Saturday

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