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DCC Summer Reading 2013

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Rob Silverence

on 18 September 2013

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Transcript of DCC Summer Reading 2013

"Bad Boy: A Memoir"
By Walter Dean Myers
The Analyzer:

Exposition: Walter Dean Myers was
born on August 12th, 1937 (under the
name, "Walter Milton Myers"). Walter's
biological parents were Mary Dolly Green
and George Myers. Walter's birth
mother died shortly after giving birth
to his sister, Imogene. Walter was
put up for adoption due to his father
having to have raised seven children
on his own. Walter, along with his sisters
Viola and Geraldine, were to live with
Florence and Herbert Dean. Walter spent
his entire childhood growing up in Harlem.
Inciting incident: One day, Walter asked
his mother for a nickel, and was given
the cold shoulder as a response. After
several more times of asking, his mother
told Walter that she was too busy, and
to go play. Walter responded by threatening
to break his sister's watch. After three
attempts, Walter successfully made a crack
in the watch, much to his mother's dismay.
This incident was the first of Walter's many
antics that would label him as a "bad boy."
Rising Action: Walter had a rather noticeable
speech impediment. As a result, kids in his
class often ridiculed him for it. In the second grade, he was asked to recite an excerpt from
a story aloud in class, in spite of Walter's speech issue. A boy, Manuel, relentlessly made fun of
Walter's speech in front of the whole class. Tired
of the constant ridicule, Walter punched Manuel
straight in the face. This habit followed Walter
for many years to come. Walter and his friends
often cut classes to do dangerous things such as
hanging, stealing a truck, and even buy some chewing tobacco. The group of adolescents would
all eventually be labelled as trouble-makers.
Climax: Walter's academic standing in
Stuyvesant High School was subpar, so
he decided to just stop attending.
Eventually, his attendance, or rather
lack thereof, caught up with him, and a
conference between his teachers and his
mother was in order. It was decided that
he would be watched under ordinance of
the city. It was decided that if Walter were
to cause trouble or skip school again, he
would be eligible for a juvenile facility.
Falling action: Walter began to fully
realize what path he was bringing
himself down. He started pouring
into his reading and his writing, as
well as deliberately avoiding everyone
he knew. He stayed home for a couple
more weeks, using the false premise
that Dr. Holiday, his counselor,
suggested so. Walter, upon returning
to school, was horrified to find
out that school had closed for the
summer, and that he missed his own
class's graduation. At the age of 17,
Walter, claiming that his parents
were dead, signed up for the Army.
After he was approved. he left home.
Denouement: Walter joined the Army to get
away from the life he had in Harlem.
After two years in the War, Walter
Dean Myers returned home as a 20-year-
old Veteran. When things seemed at an
all-time low, he remembered a small yet
significant piece of advice that his high
school English teacher gave him. Walter
then knew what he wanted to do with his
life. He then pursued a career in writing
stories for young people, which included
recounts of the Vietnam War and his
life in Harlem, as well as fictional tales
of children and teenagers. He still writes
to this day.
The story of Bad Boy is narrated in first person. This point of view allows the reader to imagine
themselves as Walter going through those hardships and troublesome times. The story, because of this, becomes more intimate to the reader, and supports the premise of
a memoir.
Setting plays an important role in the
story. Walter Dean Myers group up in
Harlem during the 1940s and 1950s.
These times were tough for dark-skinned
people such as Walter. Walter's friend,
Eric, was white, and Walter often could
not do things with him because he was
not. Stable jobs in Harlem during that
time were scarce, which made Walter
very doubtful to pursue writing as a
full-time career.
Walter Dean Myers employed satire in
this story to further exemplify his
troubles. As previously mentioned,
Walter's skin color hindered his social
life. Boys in Walter's neighborhood
associated things that Walter was
interested in with homosexuality, and
Walter was even more disdainful to
write his poetry and read his books,
because he did not want to be labelled
as such.

"Bad Boy" is not the sole work of its
kind. An example is the story, "Still
Life in Harlem" by Eddie L. Harris
(which, like "Bad Boy," is a memoir).
Both "Still Life in Harlem" and "Bad
Boy" focus on a protagonist living a
hard life in Harlem. Both stories
have a common motif of hardships
living in a place such as Harlem.
Not only does it relate to pieces of
literature, but "Bad Boy" is relatable to
real life instances as well. Children
Walter's age also faced adversity in
communities such as the one he lived
in. Children were not the only victims
of this scrutiny. Adults in that place
and time had trouble holding jobs, due to the soldiers coming home from
Korea. In both the book, and in real
life, the 1950s were tedious times for
many people. Both in life and the story, the idea was present that through endurance and perseverance,
you can make it through the toughest of times.
Although comparatively insignificant,
certain references in the story are factual.
One notable instance is the recount of the
Brooklyn Dodgers' 1951 season, in which
they were on top for half the season with
a 13 game lead, but ultimately were
beaten by the San Francisco Giants. The
Brooklyn Dodgers could represent Walter
himself, as he constantly dodged the
consequences of his deplorable actions.
Similarly, the Giants represent the people
around him that see themselves as bigger
and better than he is.
The Illuminati:

"You're a big boy now... Make sure you lock
the doors when you go out, and be sure to
turn off the lights." -Walter's Mother ("Mama")

Mama gave Walter a responsibility and referred
to him as a "big boy." Something Walter pondered
throughout his adolescent years was what it
meant to be a man. this first instance shows just
that. To be a man is to have responsibilities.
Walter's first step towards manhood was when
he was given that key to the home.
"...Nor did I see anybody defining a real
man as somebody who paid a lot of
attention to books." -Walter

This quote covers two recurring topics
in the book. One is the motif of what it
means to be a man. The other is the
fact that Walter's hobbies were never
looked upon highly. Nonetheless, he kept
doing what he loved. It was proven that
a part of being a man was doing what
you wanted and not caring to people who
put you down by disapproving of those
"...I had returned to that period of innocence
in my life, that period of exploration of the
human condition. And I was loving it."

Walter Dean Myers had finally found his
calling, and that calling took him to places
he couldn't physically go to. Adversity and
hardship plagued Walter's life, and reading
and writing were his ways to escape them.
Walter often times questioned who he was,
and by returning from the War and pursuing
writing, he found himself. To him and the
people around, he was a true man.
Philosopher King:

Was Walter's misbehavior justifiable for any reason? Why would he do all the things he did? Explain what Walter could have done better to defend himself.

How did Walter's life as an adolescent
compare and differ from the life of a
child today? How do certain people's
situations relate to his?

What might Walter's life have been like
if he did not get into trouble all the time?
Would he have been the same as he is today?

Walter naturally had a very short temper.
However, no problem should have to be
solved via physical means. Walter was
always bigger than the children around
him, so he wanted to assert his dominance
and utilize his capabilities. Instead of
constantly using violence, Walter could
have simply tried talking out his issues.

Like many children, Walter had trouble
finding his place and "fitting in" with
those around him. However, children
who are different often show it to
others (though other children hide it
as well). Families every day deal with
hard times in their lives. There is
poverty, illness, and suffering

Walter learned many life lessons after his
numerous experiences. The things he did,
along with the aftermath, taught him right
from wrong. Walter would have eventually
learned things about life, but not to as great
of an extent, because it is best to learn by the
experiences of oneself rather than the experiences of others.

Source Citation:

Myers, Walter Dean. Bad Boy: A Memoir. New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2001. Print.
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