In Bud, Not Buddy, how does Bud change throughout the story?

Quick answer:

In Bud, Not Buddy, Bud changes over the course of the story by becoming more self-confident and assertive. By the time we reach the end of the story, Bud is no longer the passive young boy he was at the start. He's considerably more mature, with a greater sense of responsibility for his own destiny.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I would argue that there are few ways in which Bud does not change during the course of his story. His circumstances change, he starts to grow up, and he becomes part of a group that he can call his family.

When we first meet Bud, he is a ten-year-old boy hardened by the failures of the foster care system. He is not above revenge, which we learn when he pours warm water on Todd so that his soon-to-be-former foster brother will get into trouble for having wet the bed. Later, he shows himself to be responsible and more than willing to do his part.

Initially, Bud is a boy willing to do pretty much anything on a whim, such as going to "ride the rails" with his friend Bugs. Later, despite some initially unwelcoming signals from the man who turns out to be his grandfather, Bud shows determination to stick with his new band family.

Over the course of the story, we see Bud take an increasingly proactive approach to life. This starts with his decision to not return to the orphanage after the latest failure of the foster care system. Our young protagonist takes control of his life and is rewarded for his efforts by becoming part of a family, finding both his grandfather and his place in the world.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

As a young orphan who's been moved around from one foster home to another during his short life, it's not surprising that Bud's personality is initially somewhat passive. Like all children in his situation, Bud is someone to whom things happen, not someone who makes things happen. He's pretty much all alone in the world, a powerless child whose welfare entirely depends on the kindness of strangers.

At a young age, Bud learns a number of strategies that help him get through life. These life lessons are based on the understanding that a young orphan in his position needs to adopt a posture of passivity and gratitude towards adults, even when they treat him abominably. This how Bud initially behaves while staying with the abusive Amos family, who treat him appallingly.

Yet over time, as Bud matures, he starts to stand up for himself. Sick and tired of the abuse he's encountered at the Amos residence, he leaves and vows never to return to the orphanage. It would appear that Bud has experienced something of a character change. Now he realizes that being passive is no longer a viable strategy; he needs to take his destiny into his own hands and be more independent and assertive. Put simply, he needs to stand up for himself.

As Bud grows more independent, he starts to become more active in the world. No longer buffeted this way and that by the winds of fate, he feels confident enough to head off to Michigan in search of Herman E. Caldwell, the man he believes to be his father. Thanks to his initiative and his change of attitude, Bud is able to take a giant step forward on the road to manhood—a road on which he's traveled some distance by the end of the story.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

You have put your finger on a major theme of this story, which, after all, is a kind of coming of age story where we are presented with a narrator who, as an orphan, is left to himself to make his way in the world and find who he is. What is interesting is that he starts off the novel as a very street-wise orphan who has learned hard lessons from life already, in spite of his young age. Note the irony in Bud's repetition of "Here we go again" when he is told about a new foster home - Bud's fourth, and his prediction of the bullying he is going to receive from Todd Amos. It is clear that in a sense we are presented with a world weary and wise character who is old before his years.

Yet as the novel develops, the wisdom that Bud has gleaned from his experiences which he repeatedly quotes to us in the form of "Bud Caldwell's Rules and Things for Having a Funner Life and Making a Better Liar Out of Yourself." Yet at times the narrative shows how wrong his "Rules" actually are as they are based on distrusting others and find it hard to accept the kindness and charity of other characters in the novel, like his "pretend family" at the Mission who ensure he gets his breakfast and share their sugar with him, and also Lefty Lewis. Finally he finds his home and a family in the form of his grandfather and his band - and also he regains the ability to cry again.

It is important to remember the significance of Bud's name - as he remembers his mother explaining her reasoning for calling him "Bud" and not "Buddy":

"A bud is a flower-to-be. A flower-in-waiting. Waiting for just the right warmth and care to open up. It's a little fist of love waiting to unfold and be seen by the world. And that's you."

What is clear is that by the end of the novel Bud has found the place he needs to fulfil the promise in his name - he has found his home, giving him the security and love he needs to unfurl.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How does Bud become more confident and mature in Bud, Not Buddy?

As an orphan, Bud finds himself placed in a situation where he doesn't enjoy any real measure of control over his life. Things happen to Bud; he doesn't make things happen. Forced to move around from one foster home to another, Bud's is in a position whereby his fate is in other people's hands. As one can well imagine, this inculcates a passive mindset, which manifests itself in an attitude of keeping one's head down and trying to avoid trouble.

Bud realizes, however, that this strategy is no longer viable. If he's to get more out of life, he has to take his destiny, as far as possible, into his own hands. In practical terms, this means standing up for himself and not allowing himself to be pushed around.

An example of this change in attitude comes when Bud takes off from an abusive foster household. Instead of sitting back and taking more abuse, he's taken the decision to get out before things get worse. This is a sign of maturity on Bud's part; he's clearly growing up.

In turn, Bud's growing maturity gives him greater confidence. Just the kind of confidence, in fact, that propels him to make the journey to Michigan in search of the man he believes to be his father.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on