Setting

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 81

My Darling, My Hamburger takes place in the 1960s in a waterfront community much like Zindel's own Staten Island, but the setting is never pinpointed. For Liz, Sean, Dennis, and Maggie, all high school seniors, life is measured by the school year. Though the four are friends, Maggie's and Dennis's...

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My Darling, My Hamburger takes place in the 1960s in a waterfront community much like Zindel's own Staten Island, but the setting is never pinpointed. For Liz, Sean, Dennis, and Maggie, all high school seniors, life is measured by the school year. Though the four are friends, Maggie's and Dennis's lower-middleclass backgrounds seem to separate them from Liz and Sean, who come from more socially established middle-class families. The pressures of teachers' and parents' expectations weigh heavily on all four characters.

Literary Qualities

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 275

For a short novel, My Darling, My Hamburger has a complex narrative perspective. Notes, letters, a short story by Sean, and other bits and pieces in the first-person voice supplement the novel's third-person omniscient narration. Despite this shifting perspective, Zindel maintains a remarkable continuity. The varied points of view efficiently reveal the family and personal problems of each character.

The shifting narrative perspective also helps to set emotional tone for different parts of the novel—generally melodramatic for Liz and Sean's story, and quietly comic for Maggie and Dennis's. What humor exists in My Darling, My Hamburger arises from Maggie's and Dennis's blundering attempts to meet social expectations without sacrificing self-respect. Sean's pain is best revealed by what he says in veiled ways; he voices his grief at the abortion in his short story "The Circus of Blackness," in which a boy places a baby's neck in the path of a guillotine. The silence that follows Liz after her abortion almost feels like the death of her personality.

Zindel juxtaposes pieces of narrative in interesting ways, and a symbolic system evolves naturally from repetition in the action. The author's most artful use of juxtaposition is the contrast established by alternating the text-of the documentary Primitive Love, which shows the natural sexuality of the Wambesi, with the tortured self-consciousness of Maggie's and Dennis's monologues. Symbols take shape in the consciousness of Sean and Liz. The mail-order astrological prediction that advises Liz to "pray to the Madonna" and her mother's gift of a Madonna serve as an apparent prophetic curse. Even the structure of toothpicks that Sean mocks oddly describes his own house and his family's ambitions.

Social Sensitivity

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 219

While My Darling, My Hamburger features positive adult characters in Mrs. Tobin and the Holowitzes, the general picture of adults is a brutal one. Mr. Zamborsky, a teacher, is always shouting and blowing a whistle; he seems thoroughly insensitive. The same is true for most other adults in the novel, which features a self-satisfied, callous Mr. Collins, a mother who sacrifices her daughter to her husband, and a stepfather who regards his stepdaughter with brutal and prurient interest. Adolescents may enjoy the adult caricatures in Zindel's writing, while adults may question Zindel's fairness.

The major issues in the novel are abortion and teen-age premarital sex. These issues are controversial, but Zindel avoids profanity and graphic sexuality. The many voices in the narrative broaden its perspective, and the novel does not judge or advocate; it merely describes the moral dilemmas adolescents face while learning about love. Zindel does, however, present Maggie's ethical love of others in a favorable way. Her choices cost her, but one can only admire her for them.

Zindel emphasizes the importance of personal responsibility. While Liz's and Sean's troubles are triggered in part by their parents' attitudes and actions, their difficulties also arise from their desire to abandon responsibility for themselves and others at critical times. Zindel calls for tough decision-making in My Darling, My Hamburger.

Bibliography

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 115

DiGaetani, John L. “Paul Zindel.” In A Search for a Postmodern Theater: Interviews with Contemporary Playwrights, edited by DiGaetani. New York: Greenwood Press, 1991.

Forman, Jack Jacob. Presenting Paul Zindel. Boston: Twayne, 1988.

Megyeri, Kathy A. “Paul Zindel.” English Journal 93 (November, 2003): 12-13.

Rees, David. The Marble in the Water: Essays on Contemporary Writers of Fiction for Children and Young Adults. Boston: Horn Book Press. 1980.

Smith, Grant T. “The Pigman’s Story: Teaching Paul Zindel in the 21st Century.” In Censored Books, II: Critical Viewpoints, 1985-2000, edited by Nicholas J. Karolides. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow, 2002.

Strickland, Ruth L. “Paul Zindel.” In Twentieth-Century American Dramatists, First Series, edited by John MacNicholas. Vol. 7 in Dictionary of Literary Biography. Detroit: Gale Research, 1981.

For Further Reference

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 159

Commire, Anne, ed. Something about the Author. Detroit: Gale Research, 1979. Presents Zindel's views of his life and work.

Haley, Beverly A., and Kenneth L. Donelson. "Pigs and Hamburgers, Cadavers and Gamma Rays: Paul Zindel's Adolescents." Elementary English 51 (October 1974): 941-945. A perceptive evaluation of Zindel's view of adolescence as seen in his early novels and his award-winning play, The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds.

Henke, James T. "Six Characters in Search of the Family: The Novels of Paul Zindel." Children's Literature Annual 5 (1976): 130-140. Afine analysis of the pattern of adolescents assuming the parental role in Zindel's first three novels. In the case of My Darling, My Hamburger, Henke treats Sean and Liz's parenting of Dennis and Maggie but devotes more attention to their failure as parents as suggested by the abortion.

Jakiel, S. James. "Paul Zindel: An Author For Today's Adolescents." Arizona English Bulletin 18 (April 1976): 220-224. A useful investigation of Zindel's biases and their effects on his fiction.

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