(Novels for Students)

Relationships with Parents
Both John and Lorraine have poor relationships with their parents, who regard them as disturbing burdens. Lorraine's father is dead, and her mother makes ends meet by working as a private-duty nurse. Mrs. Jensen's ethics and values are questionable: she steals from her patients, gets kickbacks from the undertakers she refers patients' families to, and urges Lorraine to stay home from school so she can clean the apartment. Lorraine feels sorry for her mother, but it's evident that these issues make her deeply uncomfortable. In addition, Mrs. Jensen projects her fears about men into Lorraine's life, hassling her about any contact she might have with boys, how dangerous boys are, and how men only have one thing in mind. These comments are not conducive to helping Lorraine develop a healthy understanding of adult relationships, so she must rely on her own instincts and on her friendship with John and Mr. Pignati to learn about what men are really like.

John's parents regard him as a disturbance that must be controlled, molded, and shaped into a carbon copy of his father, who leads an emotionally restricted and stressful life as a trader on the Coffee Exchange. They view John's energy, desire for fun, and dramatic talent as liabilities rather than gifts. Their household, like Mrs. Jensen's, is cold and not nurturing; he is constantly compared to his brother, who according to his parents is an ideal son. This coldness and comparison to an ideal he does not want to emulate foster a sense of alienation and rebellion in John, and this alienation and rebellion in turn prevent him from focusing his energy on anything productive.

John and Lorraine, like many teenagers, have little sense of the consequences of their actions, and they learn that their acts have consequences only when it's too late to change anything. At first, they tell themselves that they're just having fun— just going over to Mr. Pignati's, just having a little party, just having a good time. The party, of course, gets way out of hand, and the shock eventually leads to Mr. Pignati's death. They both realize...

(The entire section is 887 words.)