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Contemporary Fiction In Gary D. Schmidt's Book On Trouble

1541 words - 7 pages

Trouble Expository Essay
A lighthouse’s piercing beam of light shines over the murky land, providing respite—albeit brief—from the harsh battering of the neighboring terrain. Trouble, by Gary D. Schmidt, wraps this picture eloquently in the form of a compelling and captivating contemporary fiction book. Trouble primarily centers around a boy named Henry Smith, who never really understood the formidable potential of the omnipotent entity Trouble in his safe and idyllic life. Henry had always fallen into the dark shadow of his brother, Franklin, as a result of Franklin’s physical prowess. “…especially since he could never hope to match the records that Franklin—Franklin Smith, O Franklin ...view middle of the document...

” (129). With no possible option left, Henry sets off for Katahdin with his friend Sanborn, and attempts to hitchhike his way all the way to Katahdin. They are eventually picked up by Chay Chouan, Franklin’s killer. Henry, unable to do anything else, plunges forward and travels to Katahdin with Chay, where he realizes that they both have felt the effects of prejudice on themselves and those they are closest to. The primary theme of Trouble is that people will always be prejudiced against those which are different than themselves, or hold different opinions. The author, Gary Schmidt, develops the theme through dialogue, flashback, and motif.
To begin with, Schmidt develops the theme of prejudice with dialogue, and how people communicate within the book. A primary example is during the court scene, where Chay is being tried for possible murder. Dr. Sheringham, the principal of the school, admits that when Chay’s locker was broken into, the cost of replacement was given to his family. “‘One hundred and sixty-five dollars. Did the school pay to replace these books?’ ‘The expense of textbooks is assumed by each of our families.’” (76). However, when Henry’s sister’s locker was broken into, the cost was entirely paid by the school, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Preparatory High. “‘The cost of replacement for that shirt was fifty-six dollars. Longfellow paid for that replacement, did it not?’ ‘Yes.’” (76). Immediately, we can tell that Dr. Sheringham has some sort of predisposition against immigrants, much like other nativists. By treating Chay, a Cambodian immigrant, to substandard conditions, he somehow hopes to nudge him out of his Anglo-Saxon community. This idea is further reinforced when Mr. Giaconda asks: “‘Would you say that the Smith family is one of your most important benefactors?’ ‘They have been exceedingly generous for a very long time, and Longfellow values their presence in our community more than I can say.’ He turned around. "Does Longfellow Prep value their presence more than that of Chay Chouan?’ Dr. Sheringham did not answer.” (78). Based on this dialogue, we can understand that if a principal himself acts in this manner, then the town must be almost entirely composed of bigots. As you can see, dialogue is a very powerful technique that Schmidt utilizes to develop the theme of prejudice in Trouble.
In addition, flashback is another method in which Schmidt expounds the theme. By referring back to the character’s past, the author shows us why a certain person acts the way they do today. For example, the brief italicized portion of text at the end of each chapter reveals parts of Chay’s violent history. “‘Remember, you were Cambodian before you were American.’ And so his father had taken his dog to teach him what he had to learn. He beat her. He made him watch…‘Learn how to be strong,’ he said.” (84). In this case, Chay’s dad tries to brutally change Chay into keeping his Cambodian ways and becoming stronger by putting him subject to...

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