The Wednesday Wars Themes

  • The Wednesday Wars is Holling Hoodhood's coming of age story. It recounts one year in his life, following him as he performs in a school play, wins a track meet, and receives his first kiss. His life isn't easy, however, and in the course of the year his sister runs away, his father loses a big contract, and Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated. These events force Holling to grow up.
  • For Holling, literature has a transformative effect. He falls in love with Shakespeare's work, which inspires him to branch out and perform in a school play. Though his classmates tease him cruelly for it, Holling never loses his love of books, which brings him closer to his love interest, Meryl Lee. Literature opens Holling to new worlds, changing his life for the better.
  • Friendship is an important theme in The Wednesday Wars. Holling's most important friends are Mrs. Baker, his English teacher, and Meryl Lee, his love interest. Mrs. Bakes becomes a major figure in his life, inspiring his love of Shakespeare and arranging for him to play catch with two members of the Yankees. Holling's friends provide much needed emotional support in this difficult year of his life.

Themes

Transformation
The Wednesday Wars is primarily a story about Holling Hoodhood coming of age. When the novel opens, he is relatively passive. His own sister even tells him to get some guts when he brings his story about Mrs. Baker to her. Holling has a vivid imagination and longs for adventure, as evidenced by his repeated readings of books like Treasure Island. Otherwise, though, he is mostly a normal kid, one who does not really have extraordinary experiences. This changes through the course of his seventh-grade year, and so does he. He moves from being a boy relatively alone to being part of a complex social structure. Mrs. Baker was an alien and an enemy at the start of the book, but she becomes an active mentor of his mind, body, and spirit. The Wednesday afternoon sessions that had been war become tutoring sessions, more nurturing than anything Holling experienced at home.

The Power of Literature
Holling is a great reader from before the book starts. He loves adventure fiction, such as Treasure Island. However, under Mrs. Baker’s exacting eye, he learns first to make his way through Shakespeare’s plays, then to enjoy them, and finally to realize their potential for adding meaning and understanding to his life. The necessity of having a good and caring teacher is part of this theme, as is discipline. Primarily, though, the ageless qualities of the great works are underscored time and again.

Love and Friendship
The Wednesday Wars opens with Holling in a relative state of war. The war that gives the novel its name is with Mrs. Baker, who he is sure hates him, but that is not the only war. The rest of the seventh-grade class threatens to kill him, and he and his sister squabble. From this state of tension and disarray Holling learns many different ways to love and many different kinds of friendship. He...

(The entire section is 520 words.)