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Correspondent
detailmuse
Posts: 180
Registered: ‎01-24-2008
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Re: Gangsters


jholcomb wrote:
It's interesting how terrified the kids are of getting caught, to the extent that no one wants to help Benji get to a doctor. This is the same impulse that lets kids die of alcohol poisoning

 

I agree, it reminded me of a 60 Minutes segment a week ago, where an underage drinker lay passed out (and then dead) for 9 hours because his friends were afraid that getting help for him would get them into trouble.
Contributor
JulieC82
Posts: 19
Registered: ‎01-09-2008
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Re: Gangsters

See when the chapter starts out with "it's only fun until someone loses an eye. " I couldn't help but think of A Christmas Story and how everyone kept telling Ralphie that he would "shoot his eye out". What ended up happening, he shot himself in the eye and was lucky he wore glasses.

 

What makes us think that these boys are intelligent? I think Benji is introspective but I'm not quite sure how intelligent he is. Boys live for the moment. They live to try new things that are perceived and usually are dangerous. I think most boys their age were a bit curious about BB guns even though Benji thought they had moved past that. I agree with the comments about group thinking or more accurately peer pressure. None of them want to look like a punk.

 

I'm not sure about Randy and his intentions. How can we really say when the author isn't giving us insight into his mind. I think it was more of a power thing. He was trying to be the Alpha dog since he was the oldest.

 

Aren't most fights almost always real? Even if they start out as "play" they almost always turn real. Someone doesn't fight fair and then it gets serious.

New User
lovetoread75
Posts: 3
Registered: ‎02-11-2009

Re: Gangsters

This chapter was hard to read.  Yes, pranks and dumb ideas are all part of growing up but the parents lack of involvement is making me crazy.  No one, except Reggie wants to take Ben to the hospital.  Again, I know this is typical teenage response, but if a parent were home at least the situation would be addressed.  Picturing Ben unsucessfully digging at his wound to avoid getting in trouble was heartbreaking.  Then to have your parents not even notice the wound the next day!!  Atrocious.

 

At least that was the end of the BB guns.  A silent acknowledgement of their mistakes and probably also their way of apologizing to Ben for his injury.

 

As a parent this was a reminder that peer pressure growing up can be a powerful thing.

Frequent Contributor
fordmg
Posts: 546
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Gangsters


canterbear wrote:

I gew up next door to some kids with BB guns and the older they got they went from BB guns to real guns. 

I suppose for some kids this can be a fad or fun thing to do..but shooting birds is not, nor is shooting at each other.  Kids try too hard to fit in.

I dont know if the "intellegence" factor appiled to all the characters in this book.

Lack of parents being present did not help either.

 



Benji aludes to this at the end of the chapter.  Page 158  "For some of us, those were our first guns, a rehearsal.  I'd like to say, all these years later, now that one of us is dead and another paralyzed from the waist down from actual bullets --drug related ..."

MG

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lmpmn
Posts: 177
Registered: ‎11-08-2006
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Re: Gangsters

I know other posters have mentioned this, but I have to talk about it again.  I swear no matter what is going on in my life, I would notice if my daughter had a big black eye!  How could they not look into their son's face for a whole weekend and not really SEE him?  I just don't get it.  And he has this BB in his face forever just to remind him of how much his parents either didn't care enough or were too busy with their own lives to notice (however he comes to interpret it as an adult).  That would mess me up!
Happiness is a warm blanket!
Wordsmith
Deltadawn
Posts: 311
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Gangsters

I definitely agree that Benji had a dual purpose in his attempt to prevent Reggie from participating in the BB gun fight.  He wanted to protect him - without a doubt - he saw himself as his brother's keeper -- but I don't doubt also that he craved having an adventure that his brother wouldn't have.

 

Seemingly intelligent kids often make poor  (i.e. stupid) decisions - I guess it is part of growing up. Very unfortunate when someone gets hurt, as in this case!

 

I was very disappointed by Benji's friends' reactions to his injury and their relief at his assertion that he did not need to go to the hospital.

 

I was moved by Reggie's brotherly concern for him.

 

 

 

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x-tempo
Posts: 102
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Gangsters

The chapter ends with Benji punching Tony Reece, the son of the French dignitary, for (not quite) calling him the n-word. It's the symbolic racial issue of our time.

 

Other recent novels that include a fight over the n-word are: "Man Gone Down" by Michael Thomas (Part II of the novel is titled after the slur the main character is called on a construction job site; and "Tree of Smoke" By Denis Johnson, in which Bill Houston, a few days short of his release from the Navy, gets in a fight with a black man who calls him a "dumb cracker," and he retaliates during the fight by calling the man the n-word.

 

PS "Man Gone Down" is a terrific novel.

 

 

 

 

 

Inspired Contributor
gosox
Posts: 69
Registered: ‎10-14-2007
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Re: Gangsters

[ Edited ]

As difficult as it was to read when his dad hits Benji, I was as disturbed by reading that as he was abused he heard everyone in the family close their doors. It is clear that this is a family used to abuse. Many have commented on the lack of involvement by Benji's mom, but we must keep in mind that she has been beaten down as well. It appears that there is as much verbal abuse as there is physical abuse. They are all living in a state of fear: a state that beats down any spirit they may have to change the circumstances.

 

As far as intelligent boys acting stupid, Benji makes the comment that he "did stupid things very carefully." (156) He also reflects about how the terms changed and they went from fighting to annihilation. "How we got from here to there are key passages in the history of young black men that no one cares to write. We live it instead."(146) Others thought these boys lead soft lives in their prep schools and they were determined to prove them wrong.

Message Edited by gosox on 03-03-2009 09:26 PM
Frequent Contributor
x-tempo
Posts: 102
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Gangsters

About the use of the n-word. When the author uses it as a comic device ("N____, Please!"] and all the rest, it's hard to take it seriously as a dramatic one! 

 

There's a scene in a Harlem bar in James Baldwin's final novel which features some back-and-forth banter with the waitress, newly arrived from Georgia sometime in the late-1950s or early-1960s. The dialogue is pitch-perfect and nobody even has to SAY the word for you to know what they're talking about:

 

"Waycross, Georgia," she said. "Now ain't that something?"

 

We all laughed. Peanut asked, "How'd you get out?"

 

"You folks up here," she said, "always wondering how we got out. Ain't you never worried about how we going to get IN? I'm tired of being out."

 

"Amen to that," said Arthur. "And let the church say amen!"

 

"But I wonder sometimes," I said, teasing, "how we going to get OVER."

 

"Oh, we over," she said. "We BEEN over. You notice how white folks don't never use that word like WE use it? They afraid of BEING over. And they right. That's how I know we got over." She laughed again, all over her mischievous pickaninny's face, and under all that cotton-candy hair. "But sometime soon, I'd still like to make it on IN."

 

"Into the kingdom?" Arthur asked this with a smile.

 

"That one up yonder?--not hardly. I can't STAND milk and honey, and child, you KNOW those folks can't sing." She and Arthur and Peanut laughed together. "And they couldn't get a spare rib or a pork chop together if their SOULS depended on it"--we all laughed again--"and they don't know nothing about chitterlings."

 

"You're crazy," I said...

Frequent Contributor
x-tempo
Posts: 102
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Gangsters

[ Edited ]

On p. 132, Benji describes a guest who appears on Gil Noble's TV show, "a psychologist who railed against Barbies and the cult of the blonde. Gray waves swept through his Afro and he wore a green-and-yellow dashiki, a silver Black Power fist hanging on a chain around his neck. Swear to God. He described a study where a group of black children was told to "pick the pretty doll," and when they passed over the brown princesses, time after time, what was there to say? "Why are our children being taught to hate themselves?" Barbie, Luke. Brainwashed by the Evil Empire.

 

The study that the talk show guest is referring to is the famous doll experiment carried out by Drs. Kenneth B. and Mamie P. Clark that was influential in the Brown v. Board of Education legal case that struck down segregation in public education.  

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenneth_and_Mamie_Clark 

 

Kenneth Clark was also among the group of mostly artists and actors assembled by James Baldwin who met with Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy in 1963. It always seemed to me that Clark was the only one who Kennedy could relate to.

 

All I'm saying is that Kenneth Clark is certainly not deserving of ridicule even if the talk show guest is. So can someone please tell me how they interpret what the narrator -- Benji as an adult -- is saying?  

Message Edited by x-tempo on 03-07-2009 11:45 PM
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deaver
Posts: 35
Registered: ‎02-04-2009
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Re: Gangsters

Rkubie writes:

 

Is this incident just a boyish prank, or does this shed a more ominous light on Randy's character?

 

 

From the moment Randy was introduced in the novel as the older teen (old enough to buy alcohol) hanging out with the younger teens I thought he had a bad character.  He reminded me of a guy that used to hang around teenagers in our town.  He was a foolish man who allowed them to play with a gun he had and a little girl was killed as a result.  I think that Randy probably turned out to be a guy who ended up in serious, serious trouble.

Correspondent
detailmuse
Posts: 180
Registered: ‎01-24-2008
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Re: Gangsters

[ Edited ]

x-tempo wrote:

On p. 132, Benji describes a guest who appears on Gil Noble's TV show, "a psychologist who railed against Barbies and the cult of the blonde. Gray waves swept through his Afro and he wore a green-and-yellow dashiki, a silver Black Power fist hanging on a chain around his neck. Swear to God. He described a study where a group of black children was told to "pick the pretty doll," and when they passed over the brown princesses, time after time, what was there to say? "Why are our children being taught to hate themselves?" Barbie, Luke. Brainwashed by the Evil Empire.

 

The study that the talk show guest is referring to is the famous doll experiment carried out by Drs. Kenneth B. and Mamie P. Clark that was influential in the Brown v. Board of Education legal case that struck down segregation in public education.  

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenneth_and_Mamie_Clark 

 

Kenneth Clark was also among the group of mostly artists and actors assembled by James Baldwin who met with Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy in 1963. It always seemed to me that Clark was the only one who Kennedy could relate to.

 

All I'm saying is that Kenneth Clark is certainly not deserving of ridicule even if the talk show guest is. So can someone please tell me how they interpret what the narrator -- Benji as an adult -- is saying?  

Message Edited by x-tempo on 03-07-2009 11:45 PM

I think Benji's underlying rage and riducule is aimed at his dad, who apparently respected (and shared the view of) the fictional Gray. But it's not safe (even as an adult narrator?) to ridicule Dad, so Benji takes it out on Gray.

 

That talk-show segment prompted Benji to abandon whites as heroes, even Star Wars whites, for fear of "correction" by his dad. Note on the following pages that if wrinkled khakis and not fighting back can prompt severe paternal reactions, think what identifying with white Barbies/Lukes/Han Solos could do. But it's the character, not the race, that Benji identifies with, and rejecting it makes him angry.

Message Edited by detailmuse on 03-08-2009 12:56 PM
Wordsmith
maude40
Posts: 357
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Gangsters

This chapter highlights the relationship of the parents and the boys. For them to not even see that Benjii has a problem with his eye is unforgivable. They are so estranged from the boys that a relationship doesn't even exsist.

 

It's also so sad that you never hear anything about Reggie. The parents don't even seem to care that Reggie is never there. It breaks my heart. Yvonne

Distinguished Correspondent
Jennmarie68
Posts: 127
Registered: ‎02-09-2009

Re: Gangsters


thewanderingjew wrote:
I hope it is okay to speak openly about this because once again, I am struck by my own misunderstanding of the black culture. I thought guns were part of the black culture. Nobody I knew owned a gun. The news media is always focussing on shootouts in black neighborhoods or black athletes with guns. I am seeing this from an entirely different vantage point.
I had the feeling that it was a game to them and they didn't think about any dangerous consequences because it wasn't for real, even though Benji says it was. Why else would they test the guns out on their friend Marcus. Surely they didn't think he would really get hurt even if he was always the one they bullied.
Message Edited by thewanderingjew on 02-23-2009 12:05 PM

 

I think that the reason that you've never seen the other vantage point of this issue is that the media doesn't want you to see the other side. I'm not saying that the media is racist but there is a definate lean to one side. In my cultures and ethnicity class we studied how that even though white men commit crimes just like black men do there is more fear associated with a black man shooting a gun, for the ratings the news is going to run the story that creates the most controversy. I don't think it's right, and I don't understand why this still happens, but if you've never lived in a minority community you are never going to understand their lives outside of what books, television, and movies tell us. 

 

I also think the perception of who's culture guns belongs to is one of perspective. We always hear about young black thugs with guns doing drive bys, which does happen, but look at "the gun culture" watch a show like Guns & Ammo TV or personal defense TV, or even American Rifleman. My guess is that the number of white people with guns in America far outweighs that of any other racial group. Go to a gun trading show, the majority of patrons are going to be middle aged white males. 

 

The media gives us one story, and that's their perogative, but there's always another side to the story. What side you believe just depends on what side you've been exposed to.  In their own way both sides are right and both sides are wrong.

Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.

Eleanor Roosevelt
Distinguished Correspondent
Jennmarie68
Posts: 127
Registered: ‎02-09-2009
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Re: Gangsters


1. This chapter might be the classic example of "it's only fun until someone loses an eye. "

 

I know this comment has nothing to do with the book, but when my mom says "it's only fun until someone loses an eye." she sounds out every syllable of eye so it sounds more like e-i-e... That made me laugh, just thought I'd share...

 

2. What leads such perfectly intelligent kids to behave like this?

 

 I think all kids do things that they know are wrong. I was always doing things I know would get me hurt for multiple reasons. a) They were fun things to do, like riding our go kart in the street, without a helmet b) The thrill of getting away with something you know you'd get into deep trouble for. c) Sheer boredom... d) Because even though you know it's wrong there is some benefit that makes it worth the consequences. 

 

3. Is this incident just a boyish prank, or does this shed a more ominous light on Randy's character?

 

 The whole BB gun battle was just boys being boys but, like so many others have said, I think Randy may have a screw just a little bit loose. It may be becuase he is dealing with anger issues, or he simply is trying to assert his status within the group. Kind of like I'm the king so I can do what I want, no matter what the rules are... I don't think Randy specifically aimed for Benji, I think had any of the other boys been first in Randy's line of sight they would have been shot also. Randy just wanted to prove that he could shoot someone with more than 2 pumps because he had the ability to.

 

4. Benji says at the end of the chapter, that their fights "were always real." What does he mean by this?

 

I'm not 100% sure on what this truly means. However my best guess is that these boys were all living "outside" of their culture. They were young black men who weren't growing up in the ghetto, they were trying to find thier own place in society while going through all the rest of the stuff that comes with being an adolecent. I would imagine that this lead to a lot of frustration and rage in their lives. So while the fights may have been about something mundane, like the rock hitting Benji's tire spokes, there was so much pent up frustration that a fight was the place to let it all out. The fights were real in the sense that they weren't "play fighting" they were really giving it their all but it was not necesarilly that they were fighting with the other person, the other person was just the manifestation of everything else that was pent up inside of them.  

Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.

Eleanor Roosevelt
Distinguished Correspondent
Jennmarie68
Posts: 127
Registered: ‎02-09-2009
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Re: Ben's Abusive Father


IBIS wrote:

His mother, even as an adult, is caught in constraining circumstances... in her case they're political and societal... she is caught up in a situation over which she has little control. Her husband is a powerful figure, and she is trapped in this miserable marriage. 

 

I wanted to elaborate on the political and societal point you brought up. We've been given many stories of families that are broken up, usually due to another family, but nonetheless there is shame on a family when they can't come out anymore. Given the stature of this family, a doctor and a lawyer, Benji's mother may have been trying to save face, and status, by just accepting her husband. The note does show she has reservations, but nonetheless I think her motivation for putting up with the abuse on her and her children was to protect the family from shame. I think that in Sag Harbor staus is everything and protecting that is top priority.

 

I would give laurels if I could but I'm still out.

 

-Jennifer

Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.

Eleanor Roosevelt