Form and Content
The Year of the Gopher is a poignant, realistic, fast-paced novel depicting the high parental expectations of a wealthy family. The locale is Minneapolis, but the story could take place anywhere. This first-person narrative begins with seventeen-year-old George Richards writing sarcastic remarks on Ivy League school applications in order to rebel against his parents and their aspirations for him. Eventually, George goes on an unsuccessful trip visiting these colleges, and his relationship with his father becomes tense.
George nurtures and tries to protect his younger siblings from their parents’ expectations. He teaches his brother, Ollie, to train with weights and supports his dream to become a forest technician instead of going to college. Ollie is so upset with his parents’ constant nagging that he has a tic. His younger sister, Jeri, rebels against their parents by sneaking out at night to meet older men. When she runs away from her abusive older boyfriend, Gus, George warns him to stay away from her. George’s older sister, Trish, a sophomore at Cornell University, comes home to marry a summa cum laude graduate of the college. She appears to be perfect, yet she must watch what she eats and drinks liquid antacid by the quart.
When George’s rejection letters start arriving, his parents conclude that George botched the applications. In a heated confrontation, George announces that he will not attend college in the fall....
(The entire section is 477 words.)