Last Updated September 5, 2023.
The Importance of Not Judging Others
In Okay for Now, Gary D. Schmidt explores how people too often judge others based on appearance and rumors. Doug is new to the town of Marysville, so he begins the story as an outsider, and he is initially treated poorly by his teachers and people on his delivery route. To make matters worse, Doug's older brother Christopher is suspected of robbing Spicer's Deli. Far too many people judge Doug based on these factors rather than on how Doug himself behaves. During the early part of the story, only Doug's mother seems to recognize that her son isn't the "hoodlum in training" others assume he is. Lil Spicer eventually realizes this as well and becomes Doug's good friend, though she at first assumes the worst about him.
Perseverance and Hard Work as Catalysts for Change
Doug initially hates Marysville, the town to which he has been forced to move, and repeatedly remarks how "stupid" everything is. He harbors great resentment toward his situation and, for a time, seems to slowly be adopting behaviors similar to those of his alcoholic father and abusive older brother Lucas. Fortunately, Doug has his mother, and other characters—like the Spicers, Mr. Powell, and Coach Reed—offer him new opportunities. Doug accepts a delivery job at Spicer's Deli and does it well, and he learns to draw at the library. He works hard in school, and his efforts pay off. As he perseveres through the difficulties in his life, Doug begins to change, and others' opinions of him begin to change as well.
The Positive and Negative Effects of Peer Influence
Although Doug takes it upon himself to persevere in spite of adversity, without people like Lil Spicer in his life, it's likely that he would have followed in the footsteps of his older brother Christopher, who seems destined to end up like their father. When the novel begins, Doug himself acknowledges that he sounds a great deal like his other brother, Lucas. As Doug and Lil become close, however, their friendship exerts a positive influence on Doug, and he becomes less like Lucas—who returns from Vietnam grievously wounded. Christopher, on the other hand, surrounds himself with fellow delinquents, and this peer group influences him negatively for much of the novel.