The Drowning of Stephan Jones – Bette GreeneOn December 3, 2016 by abah guru
A Critical View [Superfluously Speaking]
Bette Greene had the opportunity to develop a brilliantly complex theme: expose the truths that adolescents have problems with parents who failed to fit the mold of lofty expectations within a social setting that reeked of blatant ultra-conservative intolerance of personal habits, preferences, and beliefs That did not go with the flow of the mainstream of tradition and learned behaviors; That teenagers must agree with finding their own identities amidst the internal conflicts of emotional needs to be accepted, loved, and appreciated by their parents as well as their peers; And that offspring are affected by "inherited" roots that propagate an endless flow of continuously strengthening hatreds that derived from utterly flawed logic of misconstrued impressions.
The major intention appears to have been to examine the interaction of youth and adults in a preliminary environment that will not tolerate alternative lifestyles and individual preferences. The bias is based on a morality that had its roots in religious fanaticism passed on through the generations. Carla's reticence to be decent is not believable because she shows moments of sophisticated insight which is not supported by her actions. Her need to be accepted and approved by Andy is undermined by her inherent sense of justice which is contradicted by her actions. She felt the need to reject Andy's (A) venging (H) ero letter; But, she did not. She could easily have repudiated the arguments proffered by Andy with regard to religious support for his beliefs; But she would not finish the fact that she was prescribed as bright enough to do so.
This story is like a Shoney's all-you-can-eat buffet muddled by the superfluous problems the supporting cast. Judith Weyland's social conflicts with the conservative major provide the meat of another sorry tale of woe;
Lawrence Harris's demeaning attitude toward his own son is not necessary to give credibility to Andy's behavior since it is implausible that a father would treat his own son that way; Carla's moral conflict with Andy shows that she is strong enough to exert her influence over him, but this strength is not perpetuated in those areas of the story where it was expected she would await. Reverend Wheelwright appears more a spectacle to ridicule than a model to respect. The sporadic eruption of biblical chapter and verse quotations from mouthy, insignificant others does little to help focus on the real problem, the reluctance of the correcteous majority to accept those elements of society they neither understand nor embrace.
Chapters 17 and 18 provide the heart of the story during which time the foreshadowed drowning of Stephan Jones takes place as was anticipated from his confused fear of water (chapter 8) and the involvement of Andy (chapter 2) as well as Stephan's desire to be With Frank on earth and in the hereafter. The objectivity of the story loses its perspective as Ms. Greene commits the ultimate gauche act of hyping her own first novel (p.73) and allowing the malapropism prostate (instead of prostrate) to slip by (p.147) as well as the unfamiliar word creche (p.16) [instead of Crèche]. Most unbelievable is the radical behavior of Reverend Wheelwright who comes across as more ignorant than reverent.
The writing style blends detailed detail highlighting inane hyperbole with ragged cliches that elicit groans of impatience tempting imminent disposal of the loosely organized chapters that struggle vainly to grasp the point of a distinct social problem. The predictable sequence of events (pizza scene [chapter 7], drive to Campbell Yaw's [chapter 17], drowning scene [chapter 18] left no suspense. [Only] that that was something in the newspaper under Frank's arm HINTED that something significant would happen The ultimate shame that Andy would have to end because of the lie that he started leaves one with a feeling that justice was not forthcoming. However, the ending does open up avenues for alternative endings to the story, resolutions that might seem more appropriate than A suspended sentence for cold blooded murder.
The reader may feel that he has partaken of a fear of problems, but the primary conflict, understanding and dealing with homosexuality in a conservative community, was left untrusted morsel lost on the shish kabob skewer that punctured the hearts of many problems and left them Dead to a clearer understanding that teenagers so willingly deserve. My own feeling is that justice was not served and such injustices continue to prevail where highly paid lawyers find loopholes to not only release dangerous sociopaths but line their own pockets with far greater wealth than the thirty pieces of silver it took to betry Christ. I may well have preferred that Frank would have taken out an UZI and blown away Andy and his worthless horde; But, that would not have been an appropriate reaction for any youth to emulate. The fact that Frank was able to destroy Andy's reputation as a "man" was sufficient enough, believable, and effective.