The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt

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Chapters 5 and 6 Summary and Analysis


Holling returns to school in January to find that Doug Swieteck's brother has plastered newspaper photographs of him playing Ariel in his yellow tights all over the halls. Although friends tear down the pictures, Doug Swieteck's brother has an ample supply, and Holling is subjected to unceasing ridicule. Holling decides that the only solution is to transfer to military school, but when he announces his intention, his father reveals that Hoodhood and Associates is bidding on a contract for a new junior high school in town, and that Holling's plans to change schools are ridiculous. Holling's sister tells their father that Holling's idea is no more ridiculous than attending her high school, where the focus is on enforcing a ludicrous dress code while bombs are dropping on people in Vietnam. Later, she tells Holling that "going to military school is a ridiculous idea," but not for the reasons their father gave. Holling's sister says that "the next stop after military school is Saigon," and almost voices genuine concern for his welfare, but is unable to fully express her sentiment.

Mrs. Baker gives Holling a test on Macbeth, and talks about Shakespeare's purposes in writing the play. She says that Shakespeare wanted "to express something about what it means to be a human being," which leads to a discussion about malice being "a small and petty thing." Holling asserts that malice is neither small nor petty, pointing out the repercussions he is facing because of the pictures still being posted around the school. When Mrs. Baker assures him that "people will soon forget," he retorts, "it's not like it's your picture in the halls, or that you have all that much to worry about." The callousness of his words strikes him immediately, as he remembers Mrs. Baker's husband in Vietnam, but the damage is done. Mrs. Baker dismisses him abruptly, and does not acknowledge him for the rest of the week.

The weather becomes increasingly dismal, but school remains in session because of standardized testing. As Holling walks home on the icy streets, a schoolbus trying to pass Mrs. Baker's car begins to skid sideways across an intersection. Directly in its path is Holling's sister, heading back from the high school, and Holling runs to push her out of the way. The schoolbus's bumper catches Holling squarely on his butt and sends him flying. When he lands, Mrs. Baker and Mr. Guareschi, the principal, come to his aid, and although he insists he is all right, they take him to the hospital. Mrs. Baker calls Holling's father, as parental permission is needed before he can be treated; Holling's father, however, with his usual lack of concern about his son, gives approval "for any necessary procedures" over the phone, and says he "will be along as soon as may be convenient." Mrs. Baker drives Holling home when he is released, and his picture appears once again in the newspaper. This time, he is shown flying across the intersection to save his sister, and when someone tapes copies of this photograph all over the school, everyone thinks he is a hero.

Holling's father wins the Chamber of Commerce Businessman of 1967 Award, and the whole family is forced to attend the presentation banquet. Before the Hoodhoods leave home however, the ceiling of the Perfect Living Room falls in, raining moldy plaster on the room's furnishings. The ceiling in Holling's classroom is similarly compromised, with the asbestos tiles bulging under the weight of the escaped rats, Sycorax and Caliban. At the beginning of February, Mrs. Baker has Holling read Romeo and Juliet. Mrs. Baker thinks the play is "tragic and beautiful" because of the star-crossed lovers whose fate is not in their own hands, but Holling just finds it annoying.

Meryl Lee, on the other hand, thinks it is wonderful that Holling is reading Romeo and Juliet. To his surprise, Holling finds himself asking her to go out with him on Valentine's Day, and she accepts. Sadly, Holling has only $3.78 to spend on...

(The entire section is 1,644 words.)