The View from Saturday

by E. L. Konigsburg

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What is the conflict in The View from Saturday?

Quick answer:

The conflict in The View From Saturday is between the normal and the abnormal. However, the author develops this conflict by focusing on the four students of Mrs. Olinski's academic team.

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The View from Saturday is a novel by E.L. Konigsburg that explores the conflicts, tribulations, and relationships of a sixth-grade teacher, Mrs. Olinski, and the four children—Noah, Nadia, Ethan, and Julian—that she chooses to represent her class during the upcoming Academic Bowl contest. In addition to Mrs. Olinski, each of the four children (who call themselves "The Souls") have stories, and each child narrates a chapter that centers on his or her story.

Noah is the first student to be selected for the team because he's a capable leader and is always first to have the answer. However, he has to learn to set aside his selfishness and constant desire to be the hero to trust in his teammates and share the spotlight.

Ethan is constantly being compared to his older brother, Luke, who's proficient at both sports and school. Ethan's struggle is to overcome the perceived deficiencies that fester in the comparison—that he can't measure up—and learn to accept himself for all the great things he is.

Nadia moves to New York with her recently divorced mother while her father stays in Florida. She needs to adjust to this new life and accept grown-up problems like divorce if she is to become a grown-up herself.

Julian is the new kid in school and suffers through being bullied, particularly because of his Indian heritage. He faces the constant inner struggle of maintaining the moral high ground despite his desire to fight back.

Mrs. Olinski, who became a paraplegic after a car crash, must overcome her own internal suffering, resulting from how others (including her own students) view her along with a latent anger about her lot in life.

The short answer is that there's not just one problem in the story, but several smaller, individual problems. Thematically, however, you could say that the overarching problem that binds everyone's story into a coherent whole is learning to be a better person, overcoming issues inside yourself and how that ultimately breeds success. Each character learns from the best parts of the others how to fight their own internal fights.

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Each of the viewpoint characters in this fun book has his or her own problem (or problems). However, there are two interrelated problems that they all share. First, each of the children and the teacher are all trying to find ways to fit in. Second, as members of the academic team, they want to win the competition. Obviously, these two relate: they must accept one another to have a chance at winning, and if they win, they'll have better places in life/school.

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What is the conflict in The View From Saturday?

There are many minor conflicts in The View From Saturday. However, all the conflicts displayed among the characters are just a representation of the main conflict. E. L. Konigsburg builds the major conflict between The Souls and society. In essence, all the major characters in this book have several flaws. Mrs. Olinski is disabled due to her involvement in an accident. She lacks confidence and turns to The Souls for encouragement. Each of the other four members that make up Mrs. Olinski's academic team has personal flaws. Ethan is a loner, and other students think he is weird. As a result, he is found to be easy prey by bullies. Noah is egotistical and always thinks he is right. Nadia is a troubled girl; she is engulfed by self-pity and anger owing to the divorce of her parents. Julian is a shy young man who thinks that the accomplishments of his elder brother make him inferior. The unruly behavior displayed by Hamilton toward Julian and Mrs. Olinski shows how the community regards people with disabilities.

Each of the four students in The Souls has to fight individual obstacles and deal with personal flaws. The fact that four students, who appear to be abnormal to the rest of the student community, form an academic team is seemingly ridiculous. Although no one mentions it, it is apparent that the team is destined to fail. E. L. Konigsburg resolves this conflict by ensuring that The Souls, under the leadership of Mrs. Olinski, overcome their personal flaws to win all the competitions they participate in. In spite of their physical and psychological challenges, the four students and their teacher win the Epiphany School Academic Team competition by beating the eighth grade. The team goes ahead to beat Knightsbridge in the district championship and finally defeats Maxwell to win the state championship.

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What is the conflict in The View From Saturday?

This is a tough question to answer because the story is not told in anything close to resembling chronological order. It starts about as far into the timeline as it could go—the competition. Then each member of the team has a flashback that explains a bit about their previous summer or beginning of the school year. They all fit together, because each flashback shows exactly how they came to meet and be a part of the team with their teacher.

Despite each flashback having a few minor conflicts, I would say that the overall main plot conflict is Mrs. Olinski's choosing of the team (The Souls). Specifically, it is her struggle with exactly who should be the fourth member of the team. It may seem like a minor conflict, but I do feel that Mrs. Olinski choosing Julian as the fourth member represents the plot climax. After choosing him and forming the full team, everything else is more or less falling action and conclusion. If choosing Julian is the climax, then the search for Julian (the fourth team member) is the main conflict.

Here is that section of the text:

The Souls continued their animated conversation, when suddenly, as if on signal, the four of them looked back at Mrs. Olinski.

And that is when she knew.

That is the exact moment she knew that Julian Singh would be the fourth member of her team and that she would always give good answers when asked why she had chosen them.

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What is the problem in The View From Saturday?

There is not one single problem. The wonder of this book is how well all the many different problems of the book come together into a seamless whole. The Souls are trying to win the Academic Bowl. Mrs. Olinski is trying to find a way to be whole, find peace, and teach now that she's in a wheelchair. Each of the four members of the Souls is trying to find a way to fit in. (Each has a different challenge.)

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