Short Fiction - Goodman's AmLit discussion

The Kid Nobody Could Handle
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Identity in "The Kid Nobody Could Handle"

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message 1: by Tony (new)

Tony Zhao | 4 comments The Kid Nobody Could Handle is about a boy named Jim Donnini who moves to live with his uncle Quinn. The kid was lonely, hopeless, and he destroyed the school. However, he finally built up his confidence with the help of the music teacher, Helmholtz. I found his identity interesting to discuss because after reading, the only thing I can barely remember about him is his boots. According to Quinn, "he likes to polish those boots---get off by himself and polish those boots" (Vonnegut 255). The only thing that makes him so different from others, except for those violent actions, is his boots. As a result, I want to ask that is there anything else that can define Jim's identity? Or is he just a person who lacks identity because of his living environment and experience.


message 2: by Jay (new)

Jay Goodman | 9 comments Mod
Identity can be tough to form when you move around that much, because so many parts of our identity are built on the idea of stability (values from parents, friends, societal pressures). And so without those, he clings to the only thing that is in his control. Think about the title, though. To what degree can "being that kid" become part of someone's identity? Do you have classmates who make the more negative aspects of their personality a strong part of their identity (lazy, unintelligent, etc)?


message 3: by Susan (new)

Susan Hu | 7 comments In this story, I feel like the boots is a symbol of the sense of safety for him. The "boots" may also mean something to us. There are symbols that make up people's identity and gives you the sense of safety.


message 4: by Richard (new)

Richard Shao | 4 comments I think wearing boots and keeping violent attitude to the surrounding. Because in the text, he cherishes his boots very much. Not only he clean his shoes very offen, but also when Helmholtz throws his boots away, "The boy shivered, than quaked. Each quake seems to shake loose someing inside." (Vonnegut 260). These shows his boots in some ways are the protection of this child. And the excited when he does bad thing. These two things are the behavior can make him being different than the other people in school, and it's the thing constitutes Jim's self-esteem. So I think it can be the identity of Jim


message 5: by Susan (new)

Susan Hu | 7 comments Richard wrote: "I think wearing boots and keeping violent attitude to the surrounding. Because in the text, he cherishes his boots very much. Not only he clean his shoes very offen, but also when Helmholtz throws ..."

When you say "constitutes Jim's self-esteem", does it mean like cleaning boots is the only thing Jim can make sure that he can do well?


message 6: by Richard (new)

Richard Shao | 4 comments Susan wrote: "In this story, I feel like the boots is a symbol of the sense of safety for him. The "boots" may also mean something to us. There are symbols that make up people's identity and gives you the sense ..."

Not only the safety, as his point of view, it can be a shining point of him. And it also is an untouchable part of him


message 7: by Susan (new)

Susan Hu | 7 comments Richard wrote: "I think wearing boots and keeping violent attitude to the surrounding. Because in the text, he cherishes his boots very much. Not only he clean his shoes very offen, but also when Helmholtz throws ..."

Jim was abandoned by families for many times. He is scared, lonely and helpless. Then, cleaning his boots is the thing that constitutes his identity and gives him the sense of safety. I feel like everyone has a symbol like the boots that gives them the sense of safety, which can be something that they can makes sure to do well. Though I'm not as lonely as he is, the action that gives me the sense of satisfaction is organizing activities. When I organzie activities, I'm advertising activities and helping the society. I would understand my meaning to the society and feel like I'm needed by other people. Like the boots for Jim, organizing activities is a symbol for me. It gives me the sense of safety no matter how much the world outside changes.


message 8: by Richard (new)

Richard Shao | 4 comments Susan wrote: "Richard wrote: "I think wearing boots and keeping violent attitude to the surrounding. Because in the text, he cherishes his boots very much. Not only he clean his shoes very offen, but also when H..."

Actually, I have similar feeling as yours. For you is organizing activity, for me is making video. When I start planning to creat a clip, for me is like making a art craft. When I can put my ideas in it and realize it, it makes me excited. Since audiences finish watching it, I can recive a sence of satisifaction. Making video has the same position as Jim's boots and yours.


message 9: by Jay (new)

Jay Goodman | 9 comments Mod
Good personal connections here. I like the way that you're both building a thematic bridge to a character that is obviously very different than you.


message 10: by Tony (new)

Tony Zhao | 4 comments Richard wrote: "Susan wrote: "Richard wrote: "I think wearing boots and keeping violent attitude to the surrounding. Because in the text, he cherishes his boots very much. Not only he clean his shoes very offen, b..."
I agree with both of you that everyone needs something that can bring him or her satisfaction, no matter what the environment is, and that "something" would become an important part of your identity. To me, that thing could be swimming. Not only does swimming keep me healthy and make me relax, it also provides a way for me to blend into the new environment. Through joining DAIS swimming team, I made friends as well as got to know more teachers. As a result, Jim in this story could also use this "shining point", as Richard said, to make friends and adapt the new environment instead of being asocial. Maybe he can make friend with people like Isaac, who enjoys buying shoes a lot.


message 11: by Tony (last edited May 24, 2018 06:43PM) (new)

Tony Zhao | 4 comments So through the discussion we can see that Jim's love of boots is a crucial part of his identity. However, I think one's identity should be developed over time. At the end of the story, Jim joined Helmholtz's band with that meaningful trumpet. Helmholtz said, "Love yourself...and make your instrument sing about it" (Vonnegut 262). From this point, boot is not Jim's whole life anymore. It's very possible that Jim will continue to practice music under Helmholtz's influence, but the more important thing is that Jim is learning to love himself, which means to take responsibility of his own life. Once before he was a "kid nobody could handle". Although that feature can be counted as an identity, it's not a positive one. However, after Helmholtz's saving, he could develop a lot more positive identities.


message 12: by Susan (new)

Susan Hu | 7 comments Tony wrote: "So through the discussion we can see that Jim's love of boots is a crucial part of his identity. However, I think one's identity should be developed over time. At the end of the story, Jim joined H..."

I agree with you and I feel like Helmholtz's saving is radical yet extremely effective. By understanding Jim and trying to convince Jim to enjoy the companion of other people, Helmholtz used his own way to transmit the warmth of love and care that Jim never had before. He changed Jim's symbol of safety by exchanging his favourite trumphet with Jim's boots. He said, "You're somebody, Jim. You are the boy with John Philip Sousa's trumpet!"(Vonnegut 260). The trumphet is his favourite thing and means a lot to Helmholtz. By giving Jim his trumphet, he was also giving him confidence, honuor and a big welcome from the society. This trumphet is like a promise from Helmholtz that Helmholtz cares about him and want to love him after he is abondoned and stayed in his own world for so many years. Therefore, it is the trumphet, which means other people's care and love, rather than the boots, which symbolizes his loneliness, that becomes a crucial part of his identity.


message 13: by Tony (last edited May 27, 2018 06:32AM) (new)

Tony Zhao | 4 comments Susan wrote: "Tony wrote: "So through the discussion we can see that Jim's love of boots is a crucial part of his identity. However, I think one's identity should be developed over time. At the end of the story,..."
I agree with you that it's Helmholtz's encouragement that saved Jim. However, to the "giving him confidence and honor" part, I think Jim himself played a more important role here. After that night, Helmholtz said, "that will be the end of him" and Quinn said, "he can't feel anything" (Vonnegut 260). From those comments, we can see that all the people around Jim thought he was hopeless. However, it is the action of breaking the trumpet that lit up his hope. Jim truly felt that somebody cared him, and that was the meaning of his life and his effort to become better. It's the internal change that shifts his attitude towards life. Not like many people whose identities are built on other's expectations, Jim's identity is totally built on his own will because he learned to live for himself.


message 14: by Leonard (new)

Leonard Xu | 2 comments The story The kid Nobody could Handle describes the deformity of a young boy who has never received the love of his parents. His character causes that he has been hurting people around him. The story also has powerfully accused the contemporary American society of its moral degradation and the spiritual damage bringing to children. The reason of why this novel attracts me is the understanding and tolerance of the teacher to Jim. He can deeply see the pain in Jim's heart, he believe Jim is not a cynical student that he look like outside. It reminds me the time when I was little, nobody could understand me. In novel, the boots are the symbol of him. How do boots represent him? Why?


message 15: by Leonard (new)

Leonard Xu | 2 comments Tony wrote: "So through the discussion we can see that Jim's love of boots is a crucial part of his identity. However, I think one's identity should be developed over time. At the end of the story, Jim joined H..."
The trumpet truly represent the new life for Jim, also let him find out the meaning of living. But in my point of view, boots represent he doesn't have a stable home to live, he always moving, which relates that he can't pay the true love to others. The meaningful trumpet only is a stuff that can make Jim join into the collective, not a identity.


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