Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 375
The narrator in "Gryphon" is Tommy, a boy who is in fourth grade in the town of Five Oaks, Michigan. Tommy narrates the story from the perspective of a child—noting, for example, that his deskmate is a "bad person" because she blows her nose into notepaper and throws it in the bin—but occasionally indicates that he is telling the story in retrospect, such as when he notes that he learned much later what a "chignon" was. Tommy is interested in things beyond what is written in the school's curriculum, like griffins and Ancient Egypt, but his mother has little time for him, not wanting to listen to what he tells her about school and asking him to look after his little brother instead.
Mr. Hibner is the class's regular teacher. He teaches by the book, has the class say the Pledge of Allegiance, and prizes ordinary knowledge. He is taken ill on two occasions, requiring a substitute teacher to be sent.
Miss Ferenczi is the substitute teacher who arrives to replace Mr. Hibner. She is unlike the usual substitute teachers in every way. New to the town, Miss Ferenczi subverts the expectations of the class. She explains that her family is from Flanders originally and tells them strange things, like the idea that math is "fluid" and that there are many ways words can be spelled. She introduces the class to "fabulous" ideas about man-eating plants and griffins and sits with the children at lunch instead of with the teachers. At the end of the story, she is finally reported to the principal after telling the students' fortunes using a tarot deck.
Carol is Tommy's deskmate.
Janice is a girl who questions Miss Ferenczi's methods.
Carl is a friend of Tommy, who argues that Miss Ferenczi is a liar. Later, when she tells the class about the man-eating plant, he recognizes that such plants do exist and begins to question whether she is entirely wrong.
Wayne is a boy who is unlucky enough to receive the Death card when Miss Ferenczi tells class fortunes. Frightened, he reports her to the principal, and she is sent away. Tommy is furious about this, calling Wayne a "chicken," and the two boys engage in a fight.
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