Cooper's Reviews > Old School

Old School by Tobias Wolff
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Aug 16, 12

Read in August, 2012

*Spoiler Alert* Overall, I believe Tobias Wolff does a good job portraying the experience of an all boys prep school. The subtle differences that were so easily distinguishable to the students themselves that would be "invisible to an outsider" are not as prevalent at Brophy but I can see the similarity. Also, I thought he captured the overall spirit of an all-boys school well in that everything becomes feminized, even meaningless events or games put on at break can become fiercely competitive. The protagonist and narrator of the book is likable and although he is wrong to have cheated, you still can't help but feel that he should stay because of his innocence in plagiarising. The narrator mentioned earlier in the novel that all of his friends, himself included, had been inspired or seriously influenced by one great writer or another. Therefore, because of this comfortability mimicking the styles of others, perhaps he didn't even realize it was wrong to simply copy her work with his own name. Overall, it makes for an interesting question on the morality of the narrator as well. Kantian ethics would suggest he is wrong for his action, though in other Ethics structures, considering his intentions were not malicious or purposefully wrong, although the action was wrong he was not immoral. However, although the main theme of the book was fairly interesting, the ending was unfortunately abrupt regarding the last few paragraphs about the narrator. Then, I thought it was somewhat strange that they used Dean Makepeace's prodigal return to the school as a sort of juxtaposition with the return he would soon make when he visited as a writer. Although he tried to set it up well with the Dean claiming he had also been in violation of the honor code, I did not see the assumptions people had made to be his fault entirely and should not hold himself so accountable immoral and wrong for people guessing about your life. Therefore, I didn't totally agree with the comparison between the Dean and the narrator that I believe the author intended to make because I'm not sure they can be compared.
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