Last Updated on August 6, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 554
Old School is about a young boy's time in school and how he loses his chance to go to a good college and win accolades when he plagiarizes a story for a contest. The boy's dean, Arch Makepeace, is also a central character in the story; he leaves the school as a result of the boy's actions.
The unnamed narrator wants to be a writer and wants to be a member of high society. He was raised by a Jewish father but in the Catholic faith. Though the atmosphere at his school frowns on obvious displays of wealth, he yearns for the kind of background that his peers come from. When he finds out that three famous authors will be visiting the school during the year, he hopes that he can win a contest that will allow him a face-to-face meeting with one of the authors, along with the publication of his piece. This will help give him some of the status he desires.
When Robert Frost and Ayn Rand arrive, they choose other students as the award winners. The narrator feels increasingly despondent. He already knows he'll be attending Columbia on a scholarship, but he doesn't feel like it will be enough if Hemingway doesn't choose his entry.
When he comes across a story by a girl he doesn't know, he sees himself in the main character. The main character comes from a lower-class background and exhibits many of the qualities he doesn't want to admit to. The narrator starts writing a story with the same sentence and continues until he's plagiarized the entire story.
Mr. Ramsey tells him that Hemingway chose his story. The story is published along with Hemingway's positive comments about it. The narrator thinks about the story as if it's his own and as if Hemingway's comments reflect his own ability. When the headmaster and staff confront him about the plagiarism, he still thinks of the story of his own and seems almost confused at the accusations.
The dean says that he will have to contact Columbia and tell them that he didn't complete his studies and that the dean "can't vouch for [his] character." This means...
(The entire section contains 554 words.)
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