Donny

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Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 504

Donald H. Horton is the narrator of the story. He is also Jeffty’s only friend. Donald has had a rough childhood, one that possibly made him grow up too fast and lose too much of his childhood.

When he is five years old, Donald is sent to his aunt Patricia’s...

(The entire section contains 1212 words.)

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  • Summary
  • Themes
  • Characters
  • Critical Essays
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Donald H. Horton is the narrator of the story. He is also Jeffty’s only friend. Donald has had a rough childhood, one that possibly made him grow up too fast and lose too much of his childhood.

When he is five years old, Donald is sent to his aunt Patricia’s house to live. At ten, Donald is sent away to a military school for four years. Donald is attracted to Jeffty, who has retained the innocence of childhood; all the things that Donald feels he has missed.

In his desire to recapture his childhood, Donald becomes absorbed in nostalgia. He loves things from the past that in his memory are far superior to his modern life. His strongest longing is for old radio programs, something that Jeffty seems to have a natural knack for recreating. It is through Jeffty’s ability to mysteriously bring back the old radio programs that Donald fully understands just how different Jeffty really is.

Donald believes that to be five years old is to live in a world of magic. It is through his descriptions of what he thinks the five-year-old world is like, that the reader gets a glimpse into what Donald’s childhood might have been like. When Donald makes statements like: ‘‘Five is a special time before they take the questing, unquenchable, quixotic soul of the young dreamer and thrust it into dreary schoolroom boxes,’’ it is easy to read between the lines and assume that this is exactly how Donald must define his experiences in school. To crave to return to the world of the five-year-old means more to Donald than returning to an age of innocence. It means being able to go back to a world of creative freedom, where thoughts were not con- fined by what is deemed socially acceptable.

But Donald is grown up. He lives in a grown-up world with grown-up friends. He has grown-up responsibilities. Although he is drawn to Jeffty’s world, he knows that his grown-up world keeps him from completely entering Jeffty’s. The difference between Donald and Jeffty is that whereas Donald would like to return to the past, Jeffty has never left it. Donald is aware of the delicate nature of his and Jeffty’s relationship, one that is built on the innocence of a child’s trust.

Being aware of something and taking good care of it are two different things. And Donald is a bit careless. He pushes the ‘‘thin membrane’’ between his world and that of Jeffty’s, and Jeffty’s world collapses.

After finding Jeffty, bleeding from the aftermath of an encounter with some rowdy teens, Donald says that he had left him alone ‘‘to fight off the present without sufficient weaponry.’’ Although Donald’s own childhood had been shortened by the circumstances of his youth, he at least had time to adjust to the changes. Unconsciously but nonetheless carelessly, Donald had thrown Jeffty into the adult world of his peers without that advantage. And the consequences were devastating.

Jeffty

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Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 428

Jeffty is a boyhood friend of Donald Horton’s. At one point in time (until Donald reached the age of five) both Jeffty and Donald were the same age. But Donald was sent away when he was five and when he returned, although he did not recognize the significance of it at first, Jeffty was still five, and Donald was seven.

As Donald grows older and realizes the drastic differences in their lives and ages, Jeffty begins to represent childhood, something that Donald craves. Jeffty represents innocence and happiness, things that Donald has lost. Jeffty lives in a world to which Donald wishes he could return.

Jeffty is free in thought, expression, and physical activity. He skips and hops. His thoughts are centered on fun things like comic books and games. Donald describes the age of five like living in a paradise. Or at least it could be if the child is given half a chance. It’s a wonderful time, the narrator says. Being five means not having lost all hope, a time of magic. Jeffty lives in a world of mystery where his ‘‘hands can not do enough’’ and his ‘‘mind can not learn enough.’’ Everything is open to him. His ‘‘world is infinite.’’ His actions are not strapped by what society thinks he should be doing.

But Jeffty’s world is not a paradise. His parents are fraught with despair because Jeffty is not developing in a normal manner. Jeffty lives mostly in his room with his kind of things: things that don’t grow up either. Time has taken on a new dimension around Jeffty. It has not exactly come to a halt, but it definitely has warped in such a way that it does not match the time of the people around him.

Jeffty has a relationship only with Donald. He trusts him, eventually inviting him into his world. Jeffty’s world is filled with the sounds of old radio programs, the taste of old-fashioned kinds of food, and the fascinating images of old black and white movies. It is a world that Donald likes to share with Jeffty.

The relationship between Donald’s world and Jeffty’s is fragile. Jeffty’s world exists only inside his head. If Jeffty believes in it, it will flourish. But if something were to cast a doubt, his world would be destroyed. The doubt that eventually does destroy Jeffty’s world begins with his parents. Then it progresses to the point where Donald exposes too much of the modern world to Jeffty, and all is lost.

Other Characters

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Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 280

Donald H. Horton
See Donny

Jeff Kinzer
See Jeffty

John Kinzer
John Kinzer is Jeffty’s father. He is a rather stoic person who works as a shift foreman at the Balder Tool & Die. He is described as a ‘‘small man; soft with no sharp angles; with pale eyes that never seemed to hold mine [the narrator’s] for longer than a few seconds.’’ He is also referred to as haunted, and is locked in silence, never knowing what to say. The narrator feels anger toward Kinzer, because of his inability to love his son, Jeffty. Kinzer is incapable of feeling compassion.

Leona Kinzer
Leona Kinzer is Jeffty’s mother. Overall, the narrator describes the Kinzers as depressing. Leona is depressed because she has been denied the joys of watching her child grow up. She feels as if she is taking care of a freak, or an alien. With her son, Jeffty, stuck in one age, Leona thinks she is living a nightmare. Leona’s mood deteriorates from sorrow to confusion, from worry to fear, and finally ends in ‘‘deepest loathing and revulsion to a stolid, depressive acceptance’’ of her fate.

One day, as if she can no longer hold in her depression, she says, referring to her son, ‘‘Sometimes I wish he had been stillborn.’’ The consequences of her actions at the end of the story are unclear, but she changes the station on Jeffty’s radio from old-fashioned programming to modern-day rock and roll music.

Aunt Patricia
Patricia is Donald’s aunt. It is to her house that Donald is sent when he is five years old. Later, Patricia loans Donald some money and becomes his silent business partner.

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