Wringer Characters
by Jerry Spinelli

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Themes and Characters

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

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Peer pressure is a major theme found in Wringer. Like all young people, Palmer wants to belong, but he makes a poor choice about the group in which he seeks membership. An only child, Palmer is a compassionate, intelligent, thinking young person with a strong moral compass. He does well in school, is obedient to the authority of his parents, enjoys a close companionship with his father, and abhors cruelty to others and animals. It is his strong morality that produces the conflict in which Palmer finds himself. He is filled with dread about being a wringer. He doesn't want to be a wringer, but he does want to belong.

Arthur Dodds, better known as Beans, is all the things Palmer is not. With teeth every color of the rainbow because he says he never brushes them, Beans gets his nickname because he loves baked beans and eats them directly from the can. Beans, Mutto, and Henry form a gang whose goals include becoming wringers at age ten, harassing younger kids, and making trouble at school. Beans has no compassion or mercy for anyone who does not share his opinion about pigeons. Mutto and Henry are followers and do Beans's bidding. Palmer's mother forbids their presence in her home after their attendance at Palmer's ninth birthday party. She calls them "hoodlums." It is hard for young people to be different and march to the beat of a different drummer. Palmer isn't like Beans and his gang, but he wants to belong. For Palmer, belonging means denying that part of himself that is gentle and kind.

Friendship is another theme found in Wringer. Dorothy lives across the street from Palmer and has been his friend since they were toddlers. Like Palmer, Dorothy is different, and is determined not to cave in to the harassment she endures from the gang. They dump disgusting stuff on her doorstep, treestump her journey home from school, call her "fish-face" and other awful names, and alienate her from Palmer. Palmer must decide if he is going to deny his friendship with Dorothy because the gang does not like younger kids, especially Dorothy. It is a difficult decision for Palmer, but his desire to be her friend isn't as strong as his desire to belong to the gang, so he turns his back on Dorothy and joins in taunting and harassing her with the gang. When Palmer needs a friend who understands how he feels about Nipper, Dorothy accepts his apology and becomes his ally, although it is a friendship kept in secrecy. Dorothy is a true friend because she is willing to forgive Palmer for everything.

Seeking parental approval is a subtle theme in Wringer . Palmer's loving parents are in the background. Palmer is more like...

(The entire section is 701 words.)