Student Question

Where does Henry's father advise him to avoid trouble in Gary D. Schmidt's Trouble?

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Gary D. Schmidt's novel Trouble opens with the narrator reflecting on Henry's father frequently reminding his family to stay away from trouble. However, the only time the reader witnesses Mr. Smith saying these words aloud is in the first chapter, during a flashback of a time when Henry had been climbing the black boulders in Salvage Cove when he fell "ten or twelve feet" (p. 5). The narrator continues to relay that, had Henry fallen either a little to the left or right, he would have landed on "stone wedges" or "sharper mussel beds" and would have been seriously injured (p. 5). However, instead, Henry landed in the water. Afterwards, Franklin said he needed to teach Henry how to climb and suggested they climb Katahdin, even climb "through the Gateway and up to the Knife Edge" (p. 6). Mr. Smith's response to Henry's fall and the proposal of climbing a dangerous mountain is to say, "If you build your house far enough away from Trouble, then Trouble will never find you" (p. 6).

At other moments throughout the book, Henry reflects on his father's words about staying away from trouble but only to think about how completely wrong his father had been. For example, in Chapter 20, Henry learns more about the history of the burned ship's remains in Salvage Cove. Specifically, Henry learns that the ship had been captained by Thomas Smith, founder of the Smith family fortune and builder the house Henry and his family live in. Captain Smith had sailed the ship during King Philip's War against the Native Americans then had used it to transport and sell enslaved Native Americans in Morocco, which shows us that trouble has always existed within the Smith family household; no one can really build a house "far enough away from Trouble."

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