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Alex Roth Per 3 The main protagonist, or main character in a story, changes his/her characters and beliefs throughout the many different trials that they persevere though. In the book, World's Fair by E.L. Doctorow, the protagonist of the story is a young, typically Jewish boy by the name of Edgar. The book takes place in 1930's post-depression New York and Edgar's family is in somewhat tumultuous times. Edgar is very young at the beginning of the book, his brother is a young teen and his parents are both middle aged. The way Edgar explains his early years show how his character deals with things and how he does so is very apparent throughout the entire book.
For example, he portrays his parents as elements, warring with each other on a much grandeur scale than two mere mortals could even conceive to argue upon. He treats everything deeper than what they actually are, much like any kid his tender age would do. He is a caring person that is very aware of everything as a child, and was disciplined very harshly by his mother. Rose, Edgar's mom, "believed pain was a curative. If it didn't hurt, it wasn't affective." She was a typical Jewish mom of that era and reminds me much of my own mother and my Grandmother. He thought many things as a child, he even thought that the weather of the day depended on his mother's mood.
This belief becomes more of a metaphor for Edgar, as he grows up in the pages of the book. Edgar's character in the first part of the book represents a caring, inquisitive, lonesome, and very conscientious boy. An example of his attentive nature can be found at the very beginning pages of the book. In these pages, Edgar constructs a fort under the Kitchen table. He got used to seeing all of his family members by legs and feet alone and started to see that how people walked was related to how they acted. His mother, for example, took very strong steps that showed her strong willed personality and his Grandmother took little tiny steps, just like how she drank her tea in tiny sips. These things that Edgar learns through spying show how detailed he was as a young child.
This extreme attention to detail leads me to Edgar's seemingly worse character trait. Because Edgar was so young compared to his brother he gains a sort of inferiority complex because of the mistreatment of him by his brother's friends. They treated him like more of a puppy than a baby and this made him feel less powerful than other people. He feels so powerless as a child he goes as far as saying, "I assumed everyone's will was stronger than mine." This leads him to study everything closer, to listen harder and eventually to grow up faster than all of his peers. When he was alone he thought of himself not like a child, but rather a completely sentient being that he "always knew himself to be." He likes magic tricks and says how his dad is a very magical person. Edgar is awestruck by the trick in which his dad "miraculously" pulls off his thumb, only to place it back on and, voila! The trick was done.
Edgar is a very headstrong kid, but is astronomically too involved in his own thought. Much like many other people I know, he reads to deeply into things, which makes his character seem much deeper than it is. All of these traits just listed are very different, and seem almost opposite in nature. This is because as a child, Edgar, although very advanced, was still a child. He felt many things deeper than they should have been not because it was his nature to do so, but rather the nature of a child. All of these traits expressed in the beginning of the book change throughout, because of the many problems that he endures, enjoys and even creates Chapter 6 in World's Fair had one of the most defining moments in the entire book.
Edgar finds chalk scrapings outside his house on the garage doors. He has a feeling about who did these strange markings and believes it to be the "bad" kids. "They wore undershirts for shirts and high-tops without any socks. They carried cigarettes behind their ears and slingshots stuck out of their back pockets." Edgar talks to his brother, Donald, and alerts him of the markings because of his inquisitive child like nature. As Donald looks up from what he's doing and his complete attention was on the markings as he started to erase them with his sleeve. The swastikas that were on the garage, according to Donald, was very bad news.
His mother later added to Edgar's intelligence and told him if he ever sees one of those bad boys again he should tell her immediately. This occurrence in the book leads to Edgar's first major character change. After learning of Nazi's and how real of a threat they were, Edgar starts to open his horizons past Eastburn Avenue and feels less secure about his life for the first time in the book. The child like nature that Edgar possesses at the very beginning of the book is changed starting here because of not only his age but because of the trauma inflicted upon him. He is no longer looking deeper into the stupid or less important things, but rather looking farther into a world with a seemingly endless pit of information and revelation. Another aspect of the book that leads to the "growing up" of Edgar's character, is his Grandmother.
Edgar's grandmother on his mom's side is very old, very senile and worst of all, very ill. She lives with Edgar and his family, but as Edgar progresses through the story she continues to progress in a downward spiral. She becomes very agitated when she goes into her senile spells forcing out malicious comments on her family. "It would be a good thing if cholera were to kill us all" was just one of the many different things spat out in the depressingly backwards talk that Edgar's Grandmother spoke. Rose, Edgar's mom, said not to take these comments to heart because Grandma loved them, she was just stuck in the past. As her condition worsens, she takes to running away from the house and these events have much impact on Edgar.
He saw her run away for the first time as she pushed and cursed by him and made her way off of the stoop and down their block. This added new worry in to Edgar's character because he, like the rest of his family, now had to worry about his Grandma taking off at any time. Not only that, but because of the rage pent up inside her as she roamed the streets, she paid no heed to oncoming traffic. When a child learns something new, he or she is often times compelled to overdue it an extraneous amount. When Edgar learned that he could achieve parity just by hurting himself, he felt as if that was the way to go about the rest of his life as a young child. This parity, originally found by him because of an unfortunate mishap with the glass porch door, did not work to the great extent he believed it should, but rather had a sort of neutral affect on his family members. He was never scolded for hurting himself like some boys often were, he was just cleaned up with delicate and meticulous attention and told, "not to run through the house like a maniac." This had little affect on his character changing, but showed a step of natural progression of a very young child into a more cunning, aware and mentally tougher boy.
He changed very drastically from the beginning of the book, yet many of the changes are still opposite in nature, which proves to be an important aspect later in the book. The portion of the book that comes next is where, for a short period of time, Edgar changes from the happy-go-lucky child he once was to a much more morbid character that has many questions and hang-ups on Death. As a kid, the aspects behind what death really was didn't phase most of us. For example, I didn't know what death really was until both of my dad's parents died. The reasons behind death didn't seem quite as scary when you didn't know what it was, because as they say, "Ignorance is bliss." Edgar first starts his experiences with death when his beloved Dog, his only childhood companion, Pinky, has to be put to sleep because he is allergic to it. This event, though at the time not that horrible for Edgar, leaves his brother very angry, both at his parents and at Edgar.
In a scene that tugs at the heartstrings, Edgar tells his brother that his parents took the dog to a "Bide-a-wee" home, only to be verbally chewed up and spit out by Donald. The panic and grief started to build up in Edgar, and he feels very alone for the first time since the beginning of the book. He couldn't trust his parents any more, and his brother, who was the only person that ever told him the truth, wanted nothing to do with him. Edgar was in now in despair, the very essence of his childhood whisked away at the drop of the proverbial hat, and all he could do was sulk and feel sorry for himself. He had learned what death truly was at the very young, tender age of 5 years old and knew that Pinky was never coming back, no matter how long he called his name. The death of his loving, yet sometimes elusive Gran ....
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