Warriors Don't Cry

by Melba Pattillo Beals

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Student Question

What two things in Warriors Don't Cry indicate that Mrs. Pickwick is trustworthy?

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Melba realizes immediately that Mrs. Pickwick's class will be different from the others, and that Mrs. Pickwick is someone who can be trusted.  In all the other classes Melba attends, the teacher is either indifferent or helpless to control the virulent abuse which goes on whenever Melba is present.  Mrs. Pickwick, however, is different.  Although she is "petite", it is clear to both Melba and the rest of the students that the shorthand teacher is "definitely not one to tolerate any hanky-panky".  When students begin to exhibit the inclination to treat Melba insultingly and belligerantly, she gives them "a stern reprimand...without so much as a hint of compromise in her voice".  Her "no-nonsense attitude...leave(s) (no) room for unruly behavior" in her classroom, and that period becomes the one "peaceful island" in Melba's horrific days.

On Melba's first day in shorthand class, Mrs. Pickwick sympathetically but firmly tells her to stay away from the window.  Melba gets the sense that the teacher "really care(s) what happen(s) to her", wanting to protect her from the scene of the angry crowds assembled outside in an area visible from the window.  Melba never gets to know Mrs. Pickwick well, but she "like(s) her and (feels) safe in her presenct".  Because of Mrs. Pickwick's empathy and strong control over her students, shorhand is the one class where Melba can feel "kind of normal, enjoying the classwork and learning" (Chapters 10-13).

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