Old School: Analysis of the Theme

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This book parallels much of Wolff’s life, and so it may be a work of fiction, but it has real roots, and that may make its theme even more compelling.Wolff writes, “I understood that nothing stood between me and my greatest desires — nothing between me and greatness itself — but the temptation to doubt my will and bow to counsels of moderation, expedience, and conventional morality, and shrink into the long, slow death of respectability” (Wolff 68).This shows the core theme of the novel – that anything is possible, even after facing adversity, and that dreams can really come true.However, that is not the only theme of this book.Underlying the coming of age anything is possible theme is the theme of literature and writing that permeates the book.Wolff states this early in the novel when he writes, “If the school had a snobbery it would confess to, this was its pride in being a literary place-quite aside from the glamorous writers who visited three times a year” (Wolff 4).This theme of literature and great writers continues throughout the novel, even if some of them (including the narrator) are exposed as frauds by the novel’s end.The narrator desperately wants to meet with and become a famed writer himself, and yet he commits plagiarism, indicating that he does not respect the institution of writing nearly as much as he thinks he does.
The book is also about character, and character flaws, and this becomes evident as the narrator steals a piece of writing in order to win a meeting with Ernest Hemingway, and the character of the other boys, many of whom are wealthy and snobs, even though they do not admit it.Wolff writes about character as it appears in literature, but also the character of the boys, the teachers, and even some of the writers that the narrator worships.(Like Ayn Rand, who turns out to be a huge disappointment to the narrator, proving a great writer does not always have the best character.)Wolff …