William Sylvanus Baxter
William Sylvanus Baxter, a seventeen-year-old suffering the relentless self-consciousness of that awkward age. The story begins on the day that William (“Willie” to his family, “Silly Bill” to his friends) falls in love at first sight with Lola Pratt, a beautiful summer visitor. As the one-sided romance unfolds, he must endure much from the world. His peers do not seem to realize that Miss Pratt is his girl, not theirs. His parents persist in treating him like a child, his little sister embarrasses him at every opportunity, and the general population—children, adults, and even dogs—seems to him positively obsessed with being rude and disrespectful. He tries manfully to show the world a façade of “lofty and uncondescending amusement,” but he makes a fool of himself in the attempt.
Jane Baxter, William’s ten-year-old sister, an intelligent, inquisitive, and not particularly tidy girl whose primary occupations are eating applesauce sandwiches and making William’s life miserable. Jane keeps a close watch on her brother’s attempts to appear more dashing and grown-up. She dutifully informs their mother when he borrows their father’s dress suit, and she is faithful in reporting other incriminating incidents. She also takes every opportunity to intrude on William’s outings with Miss Pratt. In so doing, Jane does not endear herself to the young lady, and the feeling is mutual. Worried about William’s attraction to the stranger, Jane discusses romance with various acquaintances. The neighborhood gardeners convince her that marriage is not unheard of for seventeen-year-olds, and she naturally passes this information on to her parents, giving them several uncomfortable moments. Jane has many friends in town, from gardeners to elderly businessmen to other mischievous...
(The entire section is 764 words.)