Caleb is the last character we will analyze. Caleb is an intelligent mixed-race boy at McClendon Middle School. He is in lots of clubs, and does a lot to try and better the school. He is generally quite positive, and seems to get along fine with his peers. Caleb was at one time Maleeka’s boyfriend and best friend. They both felt like outsiders in many ways, and connected on that. Before the story began, it is told to the reader that Caleb ditched Maleeka after their peers relentlessly bullying her on a bus. He conformed to the group rather than be the outlier to stand up for her— typical behavior of many middle schoolers. Of course this action deeply hurt Maleeka. Caleb spends the better part of the novel trying to apologize and win back her affections. His guilt was immense and he demonstrates that he knows how Maleeka must be feeling betrayed and alone. But, as any hurt person may do, she ignores him and does not fully believe him until the end of the novel.
Citizen, By Claudia Rankine
This poem is written from the perspective of someone who seems to be living outside of his or her own experience. The word “you” is used countless times. This poem showcases the confusion of being a part of a society that is not controlled by oneself in any way, and what living there feels like. The poet feels disconnected, and like their own choices and feelings are secondary to that of the engine of society. Decisions are made based upon those around you and not yourself. The poem concludes with, “the worst injury is feeling you don’t so much belong/ to you.” I interpreted this poem as meaning your decisions are controlled by what those around you impose.
Caleb decided to cut ties with Maleeka when his peers were making fun of him for sitting with her on the bus. In a moment of weakness, he allowed his environment to dictate his decision. He never fully accepted his choice to do that, and is conflicted and feels guilty for a large part of the novel. Though he made a choice that many see as mean and ruthless, it was informed by his environment, and it truly was difficult to make a different choice given the circumstances.
Frankenstein, By Mary Shelley, Classical Comics Graphic Novel Adaptation
In this excerpt, Dr. Frankenstein creates the creature, then abandons it in sheer terror after seeing its ghastly appearance and movements. Dr. Frankenstein abandons his creation before giving it a chance to exist and prove its “benevolence” and goodness. This can be compared to Caleb dumping Maleeka in the face of fear as well. Additionally, on pages 70-73, the Creature arrives upon a home in need of food, drink and rest. He is cautious in entering and wary of the fear his appearance strikes. He knocks, and announces who he is and his intentions. An old man tells him to come in, and informs him that he is blind. They have a pleasant conversation and the old man tells the Creature that he understands that he is good and sincere. When the old man’s family returns home, they drive the Creature out violently. The old man did not contest his family’s actions despite his knowledge of the kindness and sincerity of the creature. Caleb did not contest when the whole bus was making fun of Maleeka. He went along with it, and did not stand up for what was right and true.
This excerpt can be used to talk about bystanders. Being a bystander is common in middle school. Students do not want to be outed in any way that is not acceptable to the group. What students fail to realize, is that the bystanders outnumber the bullies and could easily stand up together to help each other out. Students often have strong feelings on this topic, so it would be excellent to discuss in a middle school classroom. Everyone has felt alone at one point or another, and would be able to share something. If you have students that refuse, consider re-reading “Describe Somebody,” (pages 22-23) in Locomotion with the class.
American Born Chinese, By Gene Luen Yang
In this novel, the main character Lin is struggling to find his collective identity using aspects of his Asian culture and his desire to be seen as an American kid. He has a crush on a white girl at his school, and throughout the novel awkwardly attempts to win her affections. He does end up asking her on a date, and ends up perming and dying his hair to look more desirable to her. Eventually she loses interest in him, and the athletic jock wins her over using Jin in the process. Jin does not see this coming. Due to his displaced anger over this embarrassing turn of events, he kisses his Asian friend’s Asian girlfriend causing their friendship to end. I feel that this portion of the novel is an excellent parallel to Caleb and Maleeka. Jin’s strong desire to look like someone other than himself causes him to lose his girlfriend. He allows the culture around him to dictate his relationship with someone he cared deeply for.
This happens quite often in middle school settings. Students are easily influenced by peers despite what their conscience may be telling them.