The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt

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Chapters 9 and 10 Summary and Analysis


May is "Atomic Bomb Awareness Month," and the students at Camillo Junior High are practicing scrunching under their desks with their hands over their heads so that they will be protected in case an atomic bomb is dropped on New York City. On Wednesdays, Holling is reading Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, with Mrs. Baker. At home, Holling's father is confounded when he learns that Kowalski and Associates has secured a multi-million dollar contract to renovate Yankee Stadium.

Holling's sister continues to insist that she will be attending Columbia University after graduation, but Holling's father is immovable in his opposition. One night, Holling's sister secretly sets out for California with her friend Chit, to "find herself." Holling's father swears that she will have to live with the consequences of her decision without his help, and he worries about the effect her action will have on his reputation. The Perfect House grows "quiet and still" in Holling's sister's absence because there is so much "that no one want(s) to talk about."

Danny Hupfer's bar mitzvah is coming up, and Holling, Meryl Lee, and Mai Thi help him prepare for the big event. One Wednesday, Holling asks Mrs. Baker not to call him "Mr. Hoodhood," as is her habit, because he says it sounds as if she is talking to his father. Although Mrs. Baker tells Holling that, like his father, he has "the soul of an architect," Holling voices his fear that he will not get the chance to decide that for himself. Mrs. Baker takes Holling on a tour of "points of architectural interest" in the area, and Holling gains an appreciation for the beauty and history they represent. When Mrs. Baker and Holling pass St. Adelbert's, Holling asks to go inside. In the silent darkness, Holling asks Mrs. Baker if she arranged for Kowalski and Associates to get the contract at Yankee Stadium, but Mrs. Baker responds that Holling does not need to know that. Holling then tells his teacher that in the event of a nuclear attack, having students hide under their desks would be pointless, and wonders why they bother with the useless drills. Mrs. Baker says it is because "just doing something gives comfort," and because people do not know what else they can do. When Holling asks, "Is there anything else we can do," Mrs. Baker responds that he should learn everything he "can...and...grow up to be a wise and good man," and indicates that, beyond this, he should leave things in God's hands. Holling lights a candle there in the church with Mrs. Baker, and prays for peace and Lieutenant Baker and Danny Hupfer and his sister.

Holling's sister calls that night, at a time when she knows only Holling will be awake. She has had a fight with Chit and is stuck in Minneapolis without money, and she does not know what to do. Having no money himself, Holling cashes a savings bond and wires the money to his sister for a bus ticket home. He is sad that she has not been able to find herself, but understands that, like Hamlet, she needs to find a home, with someone who loves her, even more. At breakfast, Holling tells his parents that his sister will be back in New York later that day and that she will need someone to pick her up at the Port Authority. Holling's father refuses to go, and Holling's mother, in a voice "as sad and lost as Loneliness," says that she cannot go either. Fortuitously, Holling manages to get a ride to the Port Authority from Meryl Lee's father; his mother gives him money for lunches and train tickets home, and Holling goes to meet his sister Heather's bus. When they get home, Holling's father asks Heather curtly if she has found herself, and Holling speaks for her, saying, "She found me." Holling reflects on Hamlet, wondering if his unhappiness was the result of the fact that "he looked in all the wrong places trying to find himself." Holling thinks that someone should have told him that "he didn't need to find himself...he just needed to let himself be found." On the last Wednesday in...

(The entire section is 1,655 words.)