1. Tim and his Environment.
When Tim Holter returns home for lunch at the end of chapter Eleven we learn that the house on Spruce Street that his parents rent from Mr. Elliott is the only home he has ever known. We have no knowledge that he has ever traveled far from this house but as Thoreau famously said about his own journeys-that he had traveled a “good deal in Concord”-we can say as well that Tim has traveled “a good deal” in Stanton Grove. He knows its creeks and trees, its Square, its streets, its older parts and its “new additions.” We get the impression the town is not large and that Tim is never far from the fields and pastures and woods that surround it. And while we do not know the exact location of Stanton Grove, we know that Abe Lincoln may have slept in the City Hall.
Readers may want to discuss how the town, its size and location have helped to shape Tim and his life.
2. Then and Now.
The story takes place in the summer of 1953. Dwight Eisenhower has been president less than a year. The Second World is in the recent past and there is talk of “commies.” In Tim’s home there is no sign of a television. Readers might list other things that are missing from Tim’s life that a thirteen year-old today would take for granted.
On the other hand, are there aspects of Tim’s life that a thirteen year old today might enjoy but not have access to?
Religion seems important in Tim’s life. How would you describe his relationship to religion and the way it affects how he thinks and acts?
4. Class Consciousness.
Do you think Tim has a sense of his and his family’s social status within the larger community?
How does he characterize himself in relation to those who are richer or poorer than himself?
Do you find evidence of a “pecking order” among Tim and his peers?
5. Personal Relationships
How would you describe Tim’s relationships with his brother and with his parents? With Gene Somner and Paul Schwartzentraub? Close? Warm? Comfortable? Distant? Cold? Precarious?
What do you make of the line at the end of chapter Nine where Tim says: “I’m filled up with things I want to tell about but don’t.”?
6. Out and About.
During the course of the day Tim has contact with several adults in addition to his parents: Fritz the cobbler, Aunt Ida, Mrs. Ellis, Jerry Matsen, Mrs. Plummer, Mr. Schwarzentraub, the two mechanics, Mr. Somner, Mr. Elliott and Officer Burkholtz. And he talks about others including teachers such as Coach Paulsen, Miss Cranston and Mrs. Porter.
Consider Tim’s relationship with one or more of these adults and describe what that relationship tells us about Tim, about the adult, and about the time and place in which the story takes place.
Finally, how would you characterize Tim’s relationship with the females in his life? Might a thirteen year-old boy today see girls and women differently than Tim does? If so, in what ways?
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