Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing

by Judy Blume

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Main events, conflicts, and challenges in Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing

Summary:

The main events in Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing include Peter's struggles with his younger brother, Fudge, who constantly causes trouble. Key conflicts arise from Fudge's antics, such as ruining Peter's school project and swallowing his pet turtle. Peter faces the challenge of feeling overshadowed by Fudge while trying to navigate typical fourth-grade issues.

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What are the main events in Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing?

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing is told by the first-person narrator and protagonist, Peter Hatcher. The main events are those that he sees as important from his perspective as a fourth-grader, a responsible son, and an older brother. His little brother, Farley or Fudge, is the cause of many related important events. The toddler, who is impetuous and excitable, tends to spoil things for Peter.

Among the most significant events are those related to Peter’s desire for a pet. Early in the novel he wins a turtle, which later dies because Fudge eats it. Finally his parents get a dog.

Peter’s social life and schoolwork are also affected by Fudge. Peter frequently agrees to look after his brother or do things with him and his parents, when he would rather be socializing with his friends. In one such event at the playground, Fudge “flies” off the jungle gym and breaks his teeth. On two other occasions, Peter accompanies his mother and Fudge to the dentist and helps his father at work when Fudge appears in a commercial. A school-related event is Peter’s collaboration with Sheila on an important project, which Fudge wrecks.

Another important event occurs early on, also affected by Fudge, is Mr. Hatcher losing his job. Fudge’s behavior toward Mr. Yarby—the father’s boss—and his wife influences the boss’s opinion, and he fires Hatcher.

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Who are the major characters in Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing?

Judy Blume's 1972 novel Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing is a wonderful book that has really stood the test of time. 

Many characters are introduced in this novel but not all of them are major. Some just serve to move the plot forward. The major characters in the novel are as follows: 

Peter Warren Hatcher is the narrator of the story and the protagonist. The antagonist is his younger brother, Farley Drexel Hatcher. 

My biggest problem is my brother, Farley Drexel Hatcher. He's two and-a-half years old. Everybody calls him Fudge. I feel sorry for him if he's going to grow up with a name like Fudge, but I don't say a word. It's none of my business. Fudge is always in my way. He messes up everything he sees. And when he gets mad he throws himself flat on the floor and he screams. And he kicks. And he bangs his fists. The only time I really like him is when he's sleeping.

Mr. and Mrs. Hatcher, Peter's parents, are also major characters. They interact with Peter differently over the major problem of Fudge. Peter's mom often holds Peter responsible for what Fudge does. She also tries to motivate the strong-willed Fudge by using Peter as a role model for him, as she does in the following quote:

But my mother said, "I have an idea." She motioned for me and Mr. Berman to come closer. I had the feeling I wasn't going to like her idea. But I listened anyway. "I think we'll have to play a little joke on Fudge," she said. "What do you mean?" I asked. "Well. . . suppose Mr. Berman brings out a pair of saddle shoes in your size and. . . ." "Oh no!" I said. "You're not going to get me to wear saddle shoes. Never!"

Peter's father is more detached and tries to be more stern with Fudge. However, he is not sympathetic to Peter's impossible situation, namely, that Fudge is a major problem in his life, and no one will help him with this problem. 

Jimmy Fargo is Peter's best friend, but, aside from a couple of episodes, he is not in the novel much. He really serves to drive the plot forward, but he is not a major character. This is also true for the Yarbys, Grandma, and Sheila. 

The biggest problem of the novel comes when Dribble, the turtle Peter wins at Jimmy's birthday party, is eaten by Fudge. All the concern goes to Fudge's well-being. His parents are panicked and take him to the hospital. The doctors prescribe medicines that will move the turtle through the digestive tract. A doctor informs Peter he will need to get another turtle. No one expresses concern for Peter's feelings about losing his beloved turtle to his brother's crazy behavior.

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Who are the major characters in Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing?

The main characters in Judy Blume’s, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, include:

  • Peter Warren Hatcher is the fourth grader who narrates the story. He is the older of the two boys in the Hatcher family. Peter feels ignored by his family because his little brother Fudge manages to call attention to himself with his antics, including destroying Peter’s homework. Fudge manages to get away with his tricks under the guise of being the baby until he takes, Dribble, Peter’s pet turtle.

  • Farley Drexel Hatcher, also known as Fudge, is Peter’s baby brother, who presents a number of problems for Peter, and the family. His tantrums and two-year old behavior give the family plenty to deal with.

  • Mr. Warren Hatcher is Peter and Fudge’s father. His personality is exposed in his dealings with Fudge. When Fudge refuses to eat his supper, Mr. Warren tells him, “To eat it or wear it.” He proceeds take Fudge into the bathroom where he pours the bowl of food over Fudge’s head. This is an antic Fudge repeats by himself when the family is in a restaurant.

  • Mrs. Hatcher is the wife of Warren, and the mother of Peter and Fudge. She often implores Peter to help her with Fudge when her dinner and birthday party plans go awry.

  • Jimmy Fargo is Peter’s best friend and classmate. He lives alone with his father as his parents are divorced.

  • Sheila Tubman is Peter’s classmate, and lives in his apartment building. Sheila is another thorn in Peter’s side. One of her past times is to tell everyone that Peter has cooties.
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What are the conflicts in the first three chapters of Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing?

The first three chapters of Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing establish the conflicts that will continue throughout the book. Young Farley Hatcher, known as Fudge, is even more impulsive and mischievous than most two-year-old children. His behavior is especially challenging for his nine-year-old brother, and only sibling, Peter. However, Fudge’s parents often find it difficult to deal with the toddler. Peter sometimes perceives that they indulge or show favoritism toward the younger boy, which puts him in conflict with one or both parents. For example, he resents being asked to do tricks that will encourage Fudge to eat. The Yarbies come to stay for a few days in the Hatchers’ apartment because Mr. Yarby is an important client for Mr. Hatcher’s advertising business. There are numerous conflictual interactions between Fudge and Peter with the Yarbies, who decide to go to a hotel.

The conflict between the Yarbies and Hatchers, although based on the children’s behavior, results in a business problem for Mr. Hatcher when Mr. Yarby withdraws his account. Unfortunately, the conflicts between Fudge and the other family members sometimes escalate into violence toward the very young child. Becoming very impatient when Fudge plays with his pet turtle, Peter hits his brother. Their father loses his temper when Fudge is a fussy eater, and pours cereal over the child.

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What are the central conflicts and challenges faced by the main characters in Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing?

The central conflicts in Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing are caused by Peter's rambunctious and disobedient younger brother, Fudge. During the course of the story, Fudge is responsible for a remarkable number of unfortunate incidents in Peter's life, all of which lead to conflict within the family.

The list of conflicts between Peter and Fudge is long, and a particularly memorable incident can be found in chapter 7, when Fudge destroys a school project that Peter and two of his classmates have been working on. As usual, this ultimately becomes a conflict between Peter and his mother, because he yells at her for failing to keep Fudge out of his possessions.

Earlier, in chapter 3, Fudge refuses to eat for a few days, and this causes conflict between Peter and his mother when Peter shows reluctance to stand on his head to get Fudge to eat and states that his brother will "eat when he gets hungry." Once again, Peter is up against her mother's blind love for her brother and the fact that Fudge can get away with anything.

Ultimately, the central characters in this novel are up against the force of nature that is Fudge. His disobedient nature causes endless conflicts and trouble for members of his family and those who visit the family's apartment.

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