Scout's Honor Summary

Scout’s Honor” is a short story by Avi about three Boy Scouts who embark on a camping trip that goes awry.

  • The narrator must go on an unsupervised camping trip to achieve the next rank as a Boy Scout. He invites his two best friends, Horse and Max.
  • The three boys struggle to make it to their destination, and when they set up camp, their attempts to warm, feed, and shelter themselves fail. 
  • They return home early but agree to tell the scoutmaster that the trip was a success.

Summary

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Last Updated on May 14, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1056

The narrator begins the story by explaining that in 1946, when he was nine, he worried that he was not tough enough, so he joined the Boy Scouts. He wants to reach the level of Second Class Scout, which requires that he go on a camping trip, although he has never left Brooklyn. Knowing nothing about camping, he asks Scoutmaster Brenkman, who is also his pastor, about where to go. Brenkman suggests the Palisades in New Jersey. According to Brenkman, many scouts do this: they take a subway train to the Washington Bridge and hike into New Jersey. When the narrator asks how he will prove that he has actually gone camping, Brenkman tells him that it is based on honor—a scout would not lie.

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The narrator has two friends, Horse and Max, both entry-level scouts along with the narrator. Horse is a small boy with a hot temper, and Max is a pudgy, talkative boy. The narrator explains that part of his reason for joining the scouts was because he saw the two of them as being tougher than him. During a conversation with them, he mentions that he is going camping in the Palisades. Horse and Max feel that this is a challenge to their toughness, especially after the narrator says that “doing stuff in the city is for sissies,” and they agree to go with him. They tell their parents that they will be camping the next weekend and lie by saying that Scoutmaster Brenkman will be with them. Although it is forbidden for scouts to lie, they feel that they are justified because they tell the truth most of the time.

When they arrive at the subway station, they all have brought food, including peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, beans, hot dogs, crackers, soda, and candy. The narrator also brings a pillow and blanket, matches, a flashlight, an umbrella, and some Marvel comics. Horse brings a mattress, and Max brings a skillet, a hatchet, and a compass. They look at the subway map to determine which station to go to, and their train arrives. Horse cannot drag his mattress onto the train in time, and while the narrator disembarks to help him, Max stays on the train and it leaves. Eventually, after reclaiming the mattress, Horse and the narrator meet Max at the next station. He has eaten all of his crackers and soda, and it is clear that he has been crying, but he claims the streaks on his face are from dripping water from the ceiling.

When the boys finally catch the next train to their station, Horse and the narrator begin to feel hungry. The narrator eats one of his sandwiches, and Horse takes out a can of beans but has no can opener, so the narrator gives Horse part of a sandwich. They miss their next stop, because they are reading comics, but they finally make it to the Washington Bridge Station.

It is getting dark and cloudy when they come up from the subway. They begin walking and have to stop frequently for Max to adjust his mattress, and the narrator’s left heel begins to ache. When they reach the bridge, they begin having doubts about crossing it. Max suggests that the bridge may not have another side, but the narrator points out that cars are going across and insists on going. When he steps onto the bridge, he feels it swaying and is convinced that it will collapse. He hopes that his friends have decided to quit, allowing him to give up on the journey, but when he looks back, they are following him.

As they cross the bridge, they become enveloped in fog. Max uses his compass to tell if they are heading north, even though the bridge runs from east to west. As they continue to cross, they see a sign that marks the New York–New Jersey border, and it begins to rain. The narrator opens his umbrella, but it cannot cover all three of them, so he folds it back up so they will all be wet equally. They then see lights for the New Jersey toll booths and begin to run forward, but Horse drops his mattress, and it becomes soaked in a puddle. Max suggests leaving it, but it is the mattress that Horse sleeps on at home. Horse notices that the narrator is limping.

As the boys reach the other side of the bridge, they see a grove of trees off to the side and head towards it. They believe they are now in “country” and decide to set up camp amid the garbage strewn everywhere. They try to chop down a tree to make a lean-to, but the dull hatched does not even dent the tree. The narrator gathers twigs for a fire, but they are wet, and when he tries to light them, he burns his finger. As he tries to build his fire, Max and Horse try to cover him using branches, and he manages to make a small fire using most of his matches. At the narrator’s dismay, they use his blanket—which is actually his mother’s prized blanket—to create a roof over themselves.

Before long, they begin to feel hungry. Max puts his pan over the fire, pours a bottle of mustard in, and throws in the hot dogs. Horse tries to open a can of beans with the hatchet, but this causes it to explode all over their shelter, prompting a food fight. Within minutes, all the food is on the ground, the shelter is destroyed, and the fire is out. They eat the hot dogs despite their being covered in dirt and then help pick the beans off of each other. After eating a bunch of candy, Horse begins to feel sick. With shame, the narrator suggests they go home, but neither Horse nor Max object.

On the way back, they are further drenched by rain, and passengers on the subway avoid them. When they finally make it home near midnight, the narrator admits that he is not as tough as the other two, but Max says that he was too afraid to quit, and Horse claims not to be tough either. They part ways after promising, on “Scout’s Honor,” not to tell Scoutmaster Brenkman what happened.

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