Setting

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 178

The time is the early 1950s. The era is suggested by the popularity of Gene Autry movies and by reference to America's foreign enemies as "Commie Japs," a ludicrous lumping of the United States' old enemy from the Second World War and its new enemy in the Cold War. Only summer's boundaries are marked: the ride in the deputy's car to the farm after the closing of school and the return of the deputy when school is set to re-open.

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The place is a farm forty miles north of an unspecified Midwestern city, so rural that the road to the farm is eight miles of unpaved, mud rut track. The nearest "town" is a collection of four dilapidated buildings, the centerpiece of which is the roughhewn "Lumberjack Lownge." Inside the farmhouse cooking is done by woodstove, laundry by hand, and interior illumination by Coleman lamp. The main stage of the action is outside the house: the fields that need work and host play, the barnyard where hostile chickens and pigs lurk, the paths and streams that invite adventure.

Literary Qualities

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 184

Paulsen uses a device often found in nineteenth-century novels, a subheading for each chapter that cryptically and enticingly previews the action to come. Most of the subheadings are laconic and ironic rather than straightforward. Chapter 6's subhead reads, "Wherein I learn more physics, involving parabolic trajectories, and see the worth of literature." What happens is that Harris and Me, inspired by a Tarzan of the Apes comic book, find a rope and go swinging from the peak of the barn into disaster.

Harris and Me is essentially a collection of distinct vignettes rather than a connected narrative of plot. Each chapter contains its own story with a beginning, middle, and end: playing war by attacking the pigs, hooking up the washer motor to a bike, hunting field mice with Buzzer. Thus the book invites leisurely reading chapter by chapter and leisurely re-reading of favorite episodes.

Paulsen writes lean, economical, classical prose. He prefers to show action and character rather than tell about them, often with laugh-aloud results. He avoids extended description, preferring to capture an event or a person through a few significant details.

Social Sensitivity

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 186

Harris and Me is a book that celebrates mischief. It looks with an adolescent's instinctive excitement at activities that many adults would correct or punish a child for. Me knows that no adult would approve of his possession of "dourty peectures" but he is at an age when "hormones . . . dominate my every waking moment," and he finds them useful barter items. Both boys play with abandon in the muck and manure of the barnyard; they may be grossed out by the smell and touch, but they are delightedly grossed out. With normal adolescent curiosity, the pair test cigarettes but find they are not physically prepared for the results. And of course, such activities usually require a fib or two to disguise them from the adult world.

One hilarious scene, in which Me goads Harris into urinating on an electric fence, has the potential to scandalize some readers. Through the use of euphemism, Paulsen de-emphasizes what could be perceived as crude and makes funny what is incongruous and naive in the prank. Euphemism is the way, after all, most children and adults talk comfortably about body parts.

(The entire section contains 1227 words.)

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