The Wednesday Wars

by Gary Schmidt

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How are the two articles linked in chapter three of The Wednesday Wars?

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Towards the end of the chapter titled "November" in Gary Schmidt's The Wednesday Wars, just as Mrs. Baker and Holling are discussing whether Calliban, the monster in The Tempest, should have had a happy ending, Mrs. Bigio, the school cook, comes staggering into Mrs. Baker's classroom. In response to Mrs. Baker's question, "Oh, Edna, did they find him," all Mrs. Bigio can do is make the most unforgettable "sounds of sadness" Holling has ever heard. The next day, Holling learns the body of Mrs. Bigio's husband had been found on an insignificant hill in Vietnam. Three weeks after this sad classroom scene, the two articles appear in the Home Town Chronicle.

According to Holling's narrative, the first article was published on the front page of the paper and featured a picture depicting Mrs. Bigio at her husband's funeral, "holding in one hand the American flag," folded for her into a triangle, while her other hand covered her face, a pose of complete agony. The second article published on the front page of the Home Town Chronicle depicted the Catholic Relief Agency home, where Mai Thi lived, as having been vandalized. The vandals painted in black across the home "GO HOME VIET CONG."

After these two articles appear, Mrs. Bigio begins treating Mai Thi horribly, even telling her while serving holiday lunch that she had no right to be there. Mrs. Bigio's discriminatory treatment of Mai Thi is a consequence of her grief. Because her husband died in Vietnam in a morally questionable war, Mrs. Bigio hates all things Vietnamese, including innocent South Vietnamese refuges, democratic refuges persecuted by the Viet Cong of communist North Vietnam. Since we know how much Mrs. Bigio's grief is affecting her behavior, we can easily see the connection between the two articles at the end of the chapter titled "November." The first article depicts Mrs. Bigio's grief, and the second article depicts actions taken because of her grief. While we don't know if Mrs. Bigio was the actual vandal, we can presume she played a role in the vandalism by at least inciting the vandals.

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