Audition August 20th 7:00 PM
Boys will be boys
Viorst intends for Alexander to be a pretty typical boy. She actually modeled him after her own same-named son, and doesn’t hide his misbehaving, messy, mischievous side. In fact, the book actually seems to celebrate it by making Alexander so endearing through the humor he creates.
So what exactly is it that makes Alexander so boyish?
On the first page, we see a certain degree of slob-ness: he tells us that he has gum in his hair, and the illustration depicts toys strewn all over his floor, socks hanging out of his drawers, and all sorts of sports equipment lying around. Yes, Alexander also likes sports, and he has a drum on the floor, too, meaning he likes noise, energy, and all-around rambunctiousness. These are the qualities we tend to see in boys across all sorts of media.
And it’s by no means a bad thing. Alexander gets into just enough trouble to make him interesting, but not so much that we judge him. For instance, he tries to pull the old “invisible castle” trick when his teacher asks what he drew for school (6). That’s the same kind of slyness that endeared us to other 1970s boys like the Fonz.
Don’t fret, youngsters: the typical boy is still around today. You don’t have to look too far past Drake or Josh, Phinneas or Ferb, or even sidekick snowmen to see how goofy, somewhat underachieving boys capture our attentions and our collective hearts.
Alexander does come up with more than just the boyishness, though. He demonstrates the tell-tale signs of classic sibling rivalry as he witnesses his older brothers getting awesome toys and awesome sneakers and awesome teeth while he ends up with nothing.
Nothing except cavities, that is.
He’s still a little kid, too, with his teddy bear by the bed, his hatred of all things gooey and romantic, and his love of a good cat cuddle at the end of the day.
In short, Alexander demonstrates a wide range of characteristics—but none of them are really surprising. He’s “typical”…and that’s just what Viorst wants him to be. Kids, who don’t have super sophisticated repertoire of character traits in their growing brains can still identify with Alexander as a kind of archetypal kid.
Anthony and Nick
There’s not much to say about Anthony and Nick other than forget Anthony and Nick.
These guys are older brothers, plain and simple. After an already nasty day, Anthony “makes” Alexander fall in the mud, and Nick calls him a “crybaby.”
More than for other characters, the illustrations tell us a lot about these two boys. As Alexander mopes about his boring white sneakers, the illustrations show Nick sitting pretty in his red ones with white stripes and Anthony smugly tying up a nice shiny pair of white ones with red stripes. Even before they start picking on Alexander for real as part of the written story, the illustrations show a braggy Anthony smiling and holding up his awesome Corvette Sting Ray car at breakfast while Alexander holds his head in his hands.
So…do Anthony and Nick have their little bro’s back? Do they lift him up when he’s down? No. The opposite, actually. Anthony looks like he holds Alexander down in the mud while Nick taunts him. So, yeah, these guys aren’t exactly supportive or empathetic older siblings.
And just like in real life, they don’t change over the course of one day. They’ll probably pick on the little guy tomorrow, too.
Brothers are just like that. Even in Australia.
Mom doesn’t get a whole lot of action in the story, but she seems to be around a lot of the time. She’s the driver, the listener, the disciplinarian, and finally, in the end, the tell-it-like-it-is-er.
In fact, while Alexander represents all things boy, Mom breaks a whole lot of the stereotypes we might bring into the story. First, she’s not super involved in all of the things that Alexander is doing. She doesn’t act in any way other than to show up when Alexander is getting revenge on his brother, and even in the end, when she is the voice of reason, it comes in the form of Alexander’s paraphrase.
Some people have come to think of this as an “ambivalent” approach to parenting—it’s certainly not the all cuddles, hugs, oohs, and ahs that we might expect from, say, Joan Cleaver.
Not us here at Shmoop.
Keep two things in mind before passing judgment on Mom:
(1) All of this is told from Alexander’s eyes, which are in turn tinted by the lens of an already terrible day, so…
(2) Mom’s style seems to be one of encouraging more independence from her boys. She lets Alexander makes the mistakes he does, she takes on some authority when things get punchy (even though Nick totally started it), and her straight-forward message at the end—that some days are like this—is an oldie but a goody.
Paul is Alexander’s buddy. He doesn’t get too much exposition as a character, but he does serve the important purpose of highlighting the importance of social life for children.
Paul gets the praise for his sailboat drawing; he gets the best dessert at lunchtime; he gets to dictate who’s friends and who’s not. It’s all pretty typical little kid schoolyard drama, but that doesn’t make it any easier for Alexander to deal him him.
In other words, Paul’s a stupid face.