Themes, Motifs, and Symbols in The Wednesday Wars

Updated: 8/29/2018
Themes, Motifs, and Symbols in The Wednesday Wars
You can find this storyboard in the following articles and resources:
Wednesday Wars Lesson Plans

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt

Lesson Plans by Bridget Baudinet

The Wednesday Wars is a coming of age story that will provoke equal parts laughter and reflection. A comic account of the fictional Holling Hoodhood’s seventh grade year, the book also plumbs unexpected emotional depths as Holling navigates bullies, friendships, and familial stress, all to the grim backdrop of the Vietnam War. Throughout his adventures, Holling reads a number of Shakespearean plays at the direction of his teacher, making the book rife with literary allusions and explorations of Shakespeare’s most famous lines and themes. Holling’s first person narration also includes plenty of playful instances of figurative language. Teachers will find this book a perfect opportunity to explore literary concepts while keeping students engaged and entertained.


The Wednesday Wars

Storyboard Description

The Wednesday Wars Themes, Motifs, and Symbols.

Storyboard Text

  • THE YELLOW TIGHTS WITH WHITE FEATHERS
  • THE COLLAPSED CEILING IN THE "PERFECT HOUSE"
  • SHAKESPEARE'S PLAYS
  • The tights Holling is forced to wear for his role of Ariel represent humiliation. Doug Swieteck's brother humiliates Holling when he plasters the newspaper photo of Holling's in his tights all over the school. The tights are also a sign of Holling's insecurities and lack of confidence early in the year.
  • The collapsed ceiling represents the destruction of the "perfect house." As Mr. Hoodhood continues to pursue his career and ignore the needs of his children, Holling realizes that his home is far from perfect. The tensions in his home have made his family quite fragile. The collapse of his house mirrors the collapse of his family.
  • Shakespeare's plays address many issues Holling faces in his daily life: love, justice, betrayal, fear, hope, identity. Mrs. Baker assigns Holling only comedies and tragedies, fitting for a book that mixes the comic foibles of Holling's seventh grade with the serious matters of the Vietnam war, the civil rights movement, and the deaths of MLK and RFK.
  • PEOPLE ARE NOT ALWAYS WHAT THEY SEEM
  • THE WEDNESDAY WARS THEMES, MOTIFS, SYMBOLS
  • WE MUST CHOOSE OUR OWN IDENTITIES
  • I don't know yet. I'll let you know.
  • So who are you, Holling?
  • As he matures, Holling changes his opinions about the people around him. At first, he believes Mrs. Baker is an evil teaching machine, but later discovers that she is a former Olympic athlete with a soft heart. Holling also discovers that his idol, Mickey Mantle, is not actually a nice guy. Finally, he realizes that his father is not as wise as he once assumed.
  • Holling struggles to find his identity. At first the dutiful heir to his father’s architectural firm, he begins to explore his strengths and think for himself as he reads Shakespeare. Holling must escape the confines of expectation in order to live out his destiny. He realizes this when he tells his father what it means to be a man.