Reading Response #9 (due Nov. 28)

Read until the end of Ham on Rye, and respond to the prompt below in a 200-250 word response. Integrate at least two (or more) citations from the novel to help illustrate your points. The goal is to prove that you’ve read and thought about the entire reading.

  • Prompt: By the end of the novel, Henry has grown into his fully mature role of underdog, outcast, and loner. Using examples from pages 210-283, describe what kind of person Henry has grown into at the end of the novel. In trying to describe Henry’s character at the end, refer specifically to two or three specific moments from these pages. Look specifically for any moments of violence, tenderness, emotion, or any moments that reflect on any of the themes we’ve been discussing throughout the novel. Of specific interest should be how he relates to the people that surround him.

To respond, click on “leave a comment” (written below). You’ll have to sign in with your WordPress account (or enter your email address and your name). Write your response. Please write your full name at the bottom of your response so I can identify you. Click on “post comment.” Copy and paste your response onto a Word document and save a copy for yourself, just in case. You don’t need to print it and bring it to class.

While I encourage you to read and be inspired by each other’s responses, each response must be completed individually. Feel free to quote each other, if you like. If you do, just make sure you give credit to the original author. If your post is too similar to any posts above yours, I’ll assume you copied it/them.

The responses are always due before class on the due date. You must attend class in order to be eligible for a grade on your response.

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32 thoughts on “Reading Response #9 (due Nov. 28)

  1. In the last few chapters, it can be seen that Henry has obviously changed a lot compared to the beginning of the novel. Even though he still remains as a loner and an underdog at then end, we are able to see a more emotional side of Henry. Throughout the novel, the protagonist talks about his encounter with several different characters but doesn’t attribute any particular attachment towards them. Indeed, he wouldn’t show any signs of concerns or interest when he would talk about his “friends” or his parents. This starts to change when he meets Robert Becker: “I only met one student at City College that I liked, Robert Becker” (Bukowski 228). Their similar interest of becoming a writer shared by both characters helps their friendship to grow. For the first time, Henry is able to discuss about his passion for literature with someone. It is also the first time that the main character let someone to be close to him. This is illustrated at the moment when Becker says, “You call me an asshole and you call me a fool. I thought we were friends” (259). Henry replies back by saying, “We are. I just don’t think you’re protecting yourself” (259). This dialogue reminds me of one that occurred earlier in the novel between Henry and Jimmy where he says, “ We’re friends, Hank.” (187) and Henry replies back by “I don’t have any friends…” (187) This shows that Henry’s character has evolved and that he is now able to let other get close to him.

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  2. In the few last chapters of this novel, we see that Henry remains a loner and outcast, but we begin to see a different side of him. Throughout this novel he has always been a violent character, but near the end of this novel it gets worse. When he is drinking with fastshoes, Jimmy and a few other guys Henry”..shot a straight right into his mouth. He fell backward down the staircase, twisting and bouncing.”(pg.253) Henry has been getting a lot more violent , he is picking fights with friends and random people. He has finally hit rock bottom when it comes to his violence. In other aspects, he is growing. At the end of the novel, we see an emotional side of Henry that we saw foreshadowed in the beginning of the novel. At the beginning of the novel, we saw that he had a special place in his heart for animals. Back in the beginning of the novel when the cat was about to be eaten by his friends dog. At the end of the novel Henry begins to call at a kitten, ” come on kitty…”(pg275) We begin to see his sensitive side come out more often. Another thing that changes is the way he speaks to his friends. At the beginning of the novel, he considered himself to have no friends. Near the end of the novel when Becker was called back to his marine base, Henry ” .. punched him on the shoulder. You’re the best I’ve ever known”.(Pg.281) We can see he is beginning to express his emotions to people and not be aggressive with them. In that one sense, he is beginning to grow and change.
    Siobhan McDonagh

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  3. I want to believe that all Humans are kind and loving deep in their hearts. I want to believe that when people are mean they do it to show off. I just refuse to believe that people are mean on purpose; there is always something behind the tough mask. That is why I believe that Henry is very kind deep inside his heart, and the mask of tough guy he is wearing is just to survive in the world he is surrounded by. In the world he has grown up is either you go with the flow, or you would be beaten and mistreated by everyone. Like in the scene where Henry fights with the rich boys who maid fun of him: ”It didn’t take much to finish Jimmy. I even tried some fancy footwork” (p. 215) He fights to protect himself, and to show that he is tough, and the fact that he is poor doesn’t mean that he cannot stand for himself. He wanted to prove that to himself more than to others: “I began to think, maybe you are a sissy, maybe you should be, maybe you should quit” (p.215). Behaving like the rest of people makes him part of them. However, the part I like the most about Henry is the way he reacts to vulnerable people, and how sensitive he is to them: “I didn’t think it was so funny for a baby to drink but I didn’t say anything” (p. 231). He cannot express a different opinion from his peers, as he might be considered weak and sensitive, and this will go against what he wants to show.

    Marcela S.

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  4. I want to believe that all Humans are kind and loving deep in their hearts. I want to believe that when people are mean they do it to show off. I just refuse to believe that people are mean on purpose; there is always something behind the tough mask. That is why I believe that Henry is very kind deep inside his heart, and the mask of tough guy he is wearing is just to survive in the world he is surrounded by. In the world he has grown up is either you go with the flow, or you would be beaten and mistreated by everyone. Like in the scene where Henry fights with the rich boys who maid fun of him: ”It didn’t take much to finish Jimmy. I even tried some fancy footwork” (p. 215) He fights to protect himself, and to show that he is tough, and the fact that he is poor doesn’t mean that he cannot stand for himself. He wanted to prove that to himself more than to others: “I began to think, maybe you are a sissy, maybe you should be, maybe you should quit” (p.214). Behaving like the rest of people makes him part of them. However, the part I like the most about Henry is the way he reacts to vulnerable people, and how sensitive he is to them: “I didn’t think it was so funny for a baby to drink but I didn’t say anything” (p. 231). He cannot express a different opinion from his peers, as he might be considered weak and sensitive, and this will go against what he wants to show.

    Marcela S.

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  5. Henry has transformed into a cold and distant character by the end of the novel, as he shuns off most people in his life and seems to have grown accustomed to his role as an outsider from the rest of society. For example, when he sarcastically asks his English teacher to fail him, his teacher responds with an equally witty remark, prompting Henry to simply walk away without any response (235). This shows how Henri has likely accepted that his position in society is unlikely to change, as in the past he had commonly always tried to be the higher individual. Accepting defeat in such a manner is not customary of the Henry previously described throughout the novel, hence it becomes easy to attribute his reaction to the fact that he no longer feels the need to attempt to fit in with others. However, Henry’s interest in literature has also spiked as he has grown up. When his father finds his manuscripts, he takes great exception to the fact that his father has tried to throw them away, caring much more about them than his other belongings (246). This is especially important, as Henry has never shown any real attachment to anything in his life, whether it be a person or an object. The fact that Henry feels such rage when his writing is trashed shows how Henry has grown as a person, as while he may have grown into an outcast, he maintains his humanity and isn’t as much of a Byronic hero as he presents himself as.

    Jerry Huang

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  6. By the end of the novel, Henry has grown into an alcoholic. Henry was dealing with abuse his whole life, whether it was from his father or the bigger kids at school, Henry couldn’t escape abuse. As Henry got older, he grew bigger and finally could have fulfilled that tough guy role he always aspired to be. Henry turns to alcohol towards the end of the novel and this is what really leads to his downfall. He always gets himself into fights, can’t keep a job, his father kicks him out of the house, was moving from place to place, drops out of college etc. the combination of his abusive childhood and his alcoholic behaviour is what leads Henry to feel useless to society “I had no Freedom. I had nothing” (236). When Henry was living in the rooming-house he started to accept his status and purpose in society “We were all in it together….we were all going to be flushed away” (275). This is where he realizes that living alone and drinking is probably going to be what his life will consist of. Henry’s manhood was also deteriorating. A man was supposed to be the anchor of his family, bringing home food and money or going to war to protect his country. Unfortunately for Henry he finds all of that stuff crap (279) and continues to avoid what a man in that time era was supposed to do or be “I don’t get any thrill trying to be a man” (278). Henry clearly has escaped from reality and is no longer looking for that chance to make things right. He has accepted his fate as an outcast and is just hanging on to the little bit of life he has left.

    Anthony Sciola

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  7. Throughout the final pages of Ham on Rye, Henry ends up fitting into this underdog, outcast, and loner character perfectly. Henry has been through some pretty tough times as a child, and I think they all have played a role in who he has become to be. We see how Henry views himself, when he states “As for me, I had no desire to go to war to protect the life I had or what future I might have. I had no Freedom. I had nothing” (236). Henry literally feels as though he has nothing left to fight for. His family relations also play a huge part in Henry’s downfall. When losing his job after not even a week, Henry’s father states, “He can’t eat, he can’t work, he can’t do anything, he’s not worth a fuck!” (217). This can relate to a scene later on in the novel, when Henry is tempting his teacher to give him a worse mark, his teacher states, “Why not an ‘F’? Because ‘F’, at times, equates with ‘Fuck’. And I don’t think you’re worth a ‘Fuck’” (235). This is no way to speak to someone, and this will eventually take effect on Henry mentally. Henry turns to abusing alcohol to solve his problems and we begin to see how Henry is slowly letting go of himself as he states, “Without drink I would have long ago cut my god-damned throat” (259). This shows the effect alcohol has on him as well. Lastly, we see his emotions come full circle at the end of the novel, when he states “I knew that I wasn’t entirely sane. I still knew, as I had as a child, that there was something strange about myself… I needed a place to hide” (274). I found this quote extremely sad because no one deserves to feel this way, and it’s unfortunate to see what Henry’s life becomes.

    Sara Vetere

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  8. By the end of “Ham on Rye”, Henry has grown to be a different person than he was before. Despite him always trying to act like a tough guy, he has also grown to be a sensitive character. When his neighbors didn’t turn the volume of the music down, he got mad and so he “jammed his foot into the door” (275). He saw them making love on the floor, and then he immediately excused himself. “I closed their door and went back to my place. I felt terrible. The poor had a right to fuck their way through their bad dreams. Sex and drink, and maybe love, was all they had” (275). Henry relates to the people that surround him and he definitely shows to have sympathy for others. He too has only beer to bring him happiness and to escape from reality. After a while, he goes back to knock on their door, and says, “I’m very sorry for what I did. Won’t you and your girl come over to my place for a drink?” […] (276). He really cares about people and I think it’s because he sees that he’s in the same ‘boat’ as they are. “We were all in one big shit pot together” (275). At the very end of novel, Henry plays the boxing game with the little Mexican boy at the arcade. He says how important it was for him to win. “I felt I had to win. It seemed very important. I didn’t know why it was important and I kept thinking, why do I think this is so important? And another part of me answered, just because it is. Then blue trunks dropped again […] Then I turned around and walked out” (283). It seemed like he wanted to win because losing against a child, a younger boy, would be very shameful to him. Winning would have validated him, and made him feel better. In life, he seems to be always losing at everything. The fact that he walks out of the arcade, shows that he doesn’t really care anymore, and that he’s not looking for validation. Neither does he want to compete with others. I think that by the end of the novel, Henry accepts the fact that he’s underdog, and there’s nothing he can do to change that.

    Claudia Keurdjekian

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  9. By the end of the novel, Henry has turned into all that he feared and looked down upon as a child. He’s a drunk, gets into senseless fights and does nothing to change what seems to be destiny: to become another poor useless man on the street. He loses any sort of optimism he had as a child and sees the world around him as a dark and unforgiving place: “I crushed him. I had learned to hate spiders. When I went to hell I would be eaten by a spider. (…) Cowardly killers, the whole bunch of them” (244). In this scene, Harry seems to compare the spider to people. Where as in the beginning of the novel, he was very aware of this innate cruelty human beings have, by the end of the book he truly resents humanity or wholeheartedly fears it. Another aspect of Henry’s personality that changes is his honesty in regards to his desperation and vulnerability. One example of this is when he speaks with Becker and the latter asks him what he wants in life: “‘And women? Marriage? Children? (…), what do you want?’ ‘To hide’ “(279). He’s open about his inability to deal with reality as well as his unhealthy addiction to alcohol. He realizes that it will be difficult for him to accomplish much in this state and seems to envy Becker’s enthusiasm for life. To conclude, this underdog comes to terms with his bad luck and his frustration slowly turns to grief for the man he’d never become.

    Neta Fudim

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  10. The last few chapters of this novel were a lot less humorous in tone. World War II is on the verge of commencing and Mr. Chinaski grows more cynical by the day. His inability to relate to others becomes apparent and it seems quite curious that Henry actually enjoys going against the grain. For example, he is weary of his college professors’ left-wing mentality and admits that “out of sheer alienation and a natural contrariness [he] decided to align [himself] against their point of view” (236). He eliminates any possibility of being able to relate with another human being by manually alienating himself and giving others a reason to detest him. In addition, Henry is disgusted by the mundanity of the world: “How could men live with women? What did it mean? What I wanted was a cave in Colorado…anything to stop drowning in this dull, trivial and cowardly existence” (210). On the surface, it seems like Henry is simply rebelling against what was expected of young men at the time, getting a job, finding an attractive woman, and settling down. I suspect that beneath the surface is a feeling, emotional human being who is shunning the world because he himself feels shunned. Henry (read: Mr. Bukowski) feels inferior, and this inferiority has manifested into callousness and violence. When he meets Becker, a fellow writer, in college, Henry admits that he is jealous of his peer’s short story: “Becker was clearly better. Maybe I’d try painting” (230). The “tough guy” exterior layer is peeled back a little bit, revealing a truly vulnerable and acceptance-seeking human being.

    Vanessa Correia

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  11. Nearing the end of the novel, Henry fully accepts his role as an underdog in society, while doing this he becomes more distant and colder. However, one thing makes Henry happy, writing is the only passion he has. Henry knew he was an outcast, he knew he wasn’t like anybody else, “I needed a place to hide” (274), sometimes he just needed to get away from society. He stopped caring about school, he never carried any of his books because he was passing with C’s, he told the teacher to fail him and the teacher said that Henry is not even worth an F, because he’s not even worth a fuck. Henry also becomes an alcoholic. Henry also becomes more conscious of how he isn’t really the tough guy he is, although he still does pick fights and starts conflict for no reason , he realizes that “[Henry] was a coward” (260). Henry let’s out his sensitive side more frequently towards the end of the novel as well. With his love for writing, Henry connects to other people who same the share passion for literature as him, “I only met one student at City College that I liked, Robert Becker. He wanted to be a writer.” (228).

    Giuseppe Gallo

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  12. At the end of the novel, Henry becomes this tough exterior who greatly reflects as his father. Both characters are angry men who act on violence, however the firmer the shell, the softer it is on the inside. We see this mostly with Henry, but since it is his point of view the readers can’t unravel the mystery behind the father’s misery, because it must be something deeper than the desire to be rich in order for the father to behave in such hatred ways. The ironic thing about the way Henry turned out to be, is a similar form of his father who he dreadfully hates. Henry grew up with violence, so maybe that is the only thing that he is certain about, even his own friends have to constantly remind him that their friends and there’s no harm to be done! “You’re an ugly man, Hank. You need to be taught a lesson,” says one of his friends, Jimmy, but the thing Jimmy doesn’t know about Henry is that all his life he has been taught a lesson (253). It’s as if Henry’s life isn’t in his favour; his own parents kick him out of the house, his good friend Becker goes to war, he can’t hold a job, he can’t get a girl, etc.

    Julia Graziani

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  13. We already know that Henry likes to act tough however he is very vulnerable inside. Anything that is particular sensitive to him, he tries to mask it as a way of “protecting himself”. It’s as if if someone knew his soft spot, they would use it against him. We can see this in the way he reacts when his father throws his things out of the house. Henry does not usually show emotions, yet the main thing he was concern about and that angered him was his short stories. However, when he is around Becker, he doesn’t want to talk about writing. Even though, we know it’s something his passionate about, he doesn’t show it. He tends to act very cold and distant and never gets attached to anyone even though he meets many new people, but when it comes to genuine good people or people who are being “victimized”, Henry shows a sense of humanity. For example, when Becker asks him to accompany him to the bus depot before he goes to war (280) and he simply goes because he felt sorry for Becker who was an orphan and had no family to say goodbye to. Also, when “Kong” the football player was hurting the players and not playing fairly, Henry decides to join in to teach him lesson (271). These scenes show that Henry is rooting for the underdogs because he identifies himself as one. He often uses violence in order to get his justice and to show others not to mess with him. He is not afraid to fight and challenge others because he knows how to handle defeat. He feels to always prove himself to others: “I felt I had to win. It seemed very important”. But even then, he loses the game against the little boy. This symbolizes that in life nothing ever seems to be in his favor…

    Jem Bajala

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  14. In the beginning of the novel, Henry started to question how he should live his life, and by being influenced by his abusing father, alcoholics and bullies in his childhood. He overcame them and acts as a tough guy, relying mostly on himself and avoid any close relationship with people. When he starts going to college, his attitude and his way of life shifted completely, he relies way too much on alcohol because he can’t get over things he is going through, he is careless such as when he asked for an F for his English class instead of a D (235), in this scene he doesn’t care much and he acts tough at the same time(show-off). His “tough guy” attitude was basically an act, he was covering his suffering in life and everything he is going through, “Sitting there drinking, I considered suicide, but I felt a strange fondness for my body, my life. “(274) It is rare for Henry, to talk about his feelings, he has that kind of soft side that has not really been expressed in the beginning of the novel. It is evident that he still tries to be a tough guy around people, but his friend Becker understands him and says “You’ll never be a writer if you hide from reality.” (259) He knows that Henry desperately tries to cut bonds with reality and live his life isolated. Henry was also a violent guy (tires to be) like when he tries to provoke Fastshoes (254) and he says, “Violence nauseates me.” (259) when he punched Becker. Henry really considers Becker as a friend compared to any people he encountered in his life and he reached a desperate stage in his life for accepting someone.
    Hersi Nur

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  15. By the end of the novel Henry has evolved into a nomadic writer. I do not mean to say that all writers are alcoholics or loner but Henry happens to be. He is very distant from the other characters in the novel. He feels better when he is alone, “Los Angeles was a good place, there were many poor people, it would be easy to get lost among them.” (264) Henry is not removed from society; he does have cynical appreciation for the world he lives in. This comes out in his writing and his commentary of writing in the novel. “This is 1940. They’re still publishing 19th century stuff, heavy, labored, pretentious. You either get a headache reading the stuff or you fall asleep.” (258) Of course Henry is also very competitive and that influences how he reacts to situations and people around him whether it be with football and Kong dominating everyone else (272) or with drinking. Henry taunts his drinking buddies, “The nights so young, I usually drink until the sun comes up.” (232) I think by the end of the novel Henry is more bitter then at any early point in the novel but with that bitterness has come an understanding if the world which allows Henry to sympathize with other underdogs. As we know from Bukowski’s writing these emotions were then reflected in many poems and stories that he wrote.

    Thomas Leclaire

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  16. By the end of the novel Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski we see a character develop into a man. We are introduced to Henry at a young age and watch him grow through many different stages of his life. One thing is for certain throughout the entire novel Henry were a loner and an utcasts. He was never apart of the “cool” kids and people found it difficult to except him. He lacked emotions and affection throughout the novel but towards the end we start to see him become more emotional. When one of the few friends he had (Becker) is called back to the Marine’s we see Henry in a more emotional state “Punched him on the shoulder. You’re the best I’ve ever known.” (281) Henry doesn’t normally speak like this, we are used to seeing him hide his emotions and keep them within. If he chooses to share an emotion it is usually a dark and cynical one such as “I don’t get any thrill trying to be a man.” (278). Henry doesn’t enjoy life the way most do. He finds joy in drinking uncontrollably and being a tough guy. Life is hard for Henry as he is unable to keep a steady job and suffered lots of abuse growing up. Henry’s character changed throughout the novel but the one characteristic that remained during was the fact that he was a loner and a outcasts throughout.

    Nadav Sarid

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  17. By the end of the novel, we can see that Henry really changed. At the beginning of the novel Henry was really calm and tries to understand the life by his own. Unfortunately at the end he seems to be as his dad, means to be violent and to be a bad person. I think his youth had catch up his evolution throught his life because he says ; ‘ I had no Freedom. I had nothing” (236) This quote tells us how Henry feels and for him he will never understands what the world is because of his parents that were never there for him. By this moment of the novel, Henry didn’t care about everything such as school. One point, he asked the teacher to have a worse grade that he had. Then Henry starts to be an alcoholic. He was always drinking that he starts to not go to school and finally drops out, his dad kick out from his house so he was living on the street. All that seemed to annoy Henry that he needs to get out of the society; ‘I felt as if I were destined to be a murderer, a bank robber, a saint, a rapist, a monk, a hermit. I needed an isolated place to hide.’ (274) By this quote, Henry is saying that he can’t anymore stay in this society, he is not comfortable and he needs to be alone. Even though he seems to have a new friend ( Robert Becker) I still believe that Henry finds his life really hard and nothing can’t change his mind.

    Alex Mukwende

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  18. In the last eleven chapters of Charles Bukowski’s “Ham On Rye,” we see a fully developed underdog-outcast-and-loner Henry Chinaski. Although the protagonist has become more violent and thus appearing to be tough, he’s not getting the results he desires to get, making him more of an underdog, outcast and loner altogether.
    For instance, when he was still working at Mears-Starbuck, he saw a group of guys from his old high school. He then picked a fight with them and “finished Jimmy” (215), making him “the new heavyweight champion of the world” (215) according to a co-worker. However, this victory over ancient colleagues took him his job, making him an outcast.
    Another instance is when Henry went to college, making it seem like he’s “back on track” with his studies, and thus on his road to success. However, even if he tries to attend his classes, he’s not respected by a teacher whom he equally does not respect. He was humiliated by that teacher saying he’s “not worth a fuck” (235), resulting to his colleagues’ cheering and roaring and him leaving the class, making him a loner.
    A third instance is when Mrs. Curtis, one of Henry’s college teachers, spoke with him about his education. Although it might seem like he’s getting support from a teacher, allowing for him to be hopeful for his future, he refuses to listen to her and leaves—he left his education and potential knowledge, which is power, he could acquire—making him an underdog (267).

    Mikaela Cuaycong

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  19. By the end of the novel, Henry was grown into his fully mature role of underdog, outcast and loner and we can see this in the different situations that happened with him. In the situation with Henry and his dad, we can see that even his dad already consider him as an underdog. He doesn’t want to have a son like this, different from everybody. “He said that he was going to kill you! He said that no son of his could write stories like that and live under the same roof with him!” (246). By saying this Henry’s mother tried to save him from his father who read his stories. And for this his dad considers him as an underdog already. But Henry’s mum loves him no matter what he is doing. Also, Henry’s conversation with Becker shows who Henry is in his mind. “… “Yeah”, I said, “but it’s pretty hopeless.” “You mean you’re not good enough?” “No, they’re not good enough.”…” (258). Henry already consider himself as a good writer and he thinks that he is much more better than everybody else think of him. This shows again to the readers that Henry believes that he is not just an underdog but that he is better and everybody else is not good enough. I think that Henry was like this all his life and he likes to be like this – not the same as everybody.

    By Karyna Statko

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  20. Throughout this novel, we see how Henry Chinaski evolves. This character is in an identity crisis for so many years and I am not sure if he got out of this hole. Henry is searching for the perfect identity that can fit him. As a young adult and teenager, he didn’t have the right resources to help him. He was bullied and an outcast of the society. In fact, as he grows up, this isolation catches him up. Henry says “I liked being alone. It felt good to sit alone in a small space and smoke and drink.” (275). As he grows up, Henry becomes “friend” with alcohol and uses in order to escape the world. Also, we see that Henry is gradually becoming the tough, invincible man. In his college, he becomes a sort of bully and tries to build a reputation using his strength : ” A guy came running by and I grabbed him by the back of his belt and stopped him” (221). It’s so weird because in a way, I see Henry adopting the same traits as his father once he’s kicked out. Henry’s father was picking up on him in the beginning of the novel and was always yelling and as we get near the end of the novel, we see Henry adopting this vulgar and violent characterization. Finally, Henry develops into a reckless, rough and pitiful adult.

    Ilyas Mohamed

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  21. Henry definitely takes a turn for the worst in the last few chapters of the book, no longer associating to the little boy he once was. He goes from someone who was against physical confrontation to someone with a sensitive temper that initiates fights based on minor arguments. We see this when Jimmy Newhall, a guy he used to go to school with and which he despised, shows up at his work and starts calling him names. Henry, instead of brushing it off, challenges Jimmy to fight him on the roof (213). He also begins to use curse words in regular conversations, something we’re not used to from him, and says things like “What’s the easiest fucking thing to take?” (221). His addiction to alcohol also gets worse in the last few chapters. Henry finds a bar in the downstairs of his apartment building and says “All I had to do was clime down the stairway and I was home.” The fact that he calls the bar his home while his room is just upstairs shows a lot about where he feels most comfortable. Finally, Henry fits in perfectly with the characteristics of an underdog, outcast and loner. He says “I knew that I wasn’t entirely sane. I still knew, as I had as a child, that there was something strange about myself.” (274). Feeling like an outcast at a young age is a normal thing, but as you get older you eventually find your place. That isn’t the case for Henry.

    Konstantina Vanikiotis

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  22. By the end of the novel, Henry has finally accepted that he is and always will be an outcast in society. Humour seems to no longer be a prominent part of the story towards the end and we are left with a dark and sinister feeling inside of us. I guess this reflects how Henry is feeling. The difference now is that Henry has stopped fighting, and stopped lying to himself. He is a loner, and he accepts this. Although it can be seen as a positive change to accept who you have become, it is different with Henry. He has become dependant on alcohol upon this realization. In other words, he has become dependant on the ability to run away from his reality. He can do this when he drinks. Henry does not truly want to be part of this society in my opinion. His situation, his feeling of abandonment and being unwanted is just something he is used to now and expects nothing more. When he speaks with Becker, Henry states that he wants “to hide” (279). His abusive childhood has left a heavy mark on who Henry has grown to be. Although not as abusive as his father, he seems to have followed in his dark and violent footsteps. Drinking often brings out the violent side of Henry which we have seen multiple times times throughout the novel, but it seems to be getting worst. When drinking with his friends, Henry punches one of them in the mouth almost carelessly (253). However, Henry has in fact become more in touch with his sensitivity and emotions. He becomes aware of the wonderful things life has to offer, but he does not feel worthy of them. He has simply given up on trying, but he does not wish others to feel as he does. For example, he walked in on his neighbours having sex and stated, “maybe love, was all they had” (275). One thing for certain, love was something Henry never had or even experienced. Yet, Henry knows the importance of it.

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  23. When reading the last few pages of the novel, I felt that Henry has finally been able to accept who he is, which is an outcast and then leading to a loner in society. He also fits in the characteristics of an underdog as well. Henry’s childhood hasn’t been like the everyday kids childhood which is to go to school learn, laugh and play and go home and do homework, but Henry’s was not the same but almost the opposite with violence and no laughter. All these actions that Henry has participated in, play an important role in who he has become at the end of the novel. Henry realizes how he sees himself; “As for me, I had no desire to go to war to protect the life I had or what future I might have. I had no Freedom. I had nothing” (236). We see here that Henry has no more emotions towards anything and has nothing left to fight for. Towards the end of the novel we end up noticing that there isn’t as much humour or stupidity that there has been in the previous chapters mainly because Henry is growing up. He is an outcast and not like anyone else. With all these negative words sent towards him and downfalls such as his teacher claiming; “Why not an ‘F’? Because ‘F’, at times, equates with ‘Fuck’. And I don’t think you’re worth a ‘Fuck’” (235) and his dad saying; “He can’t eat, he can’t work, he can’t do anything, he’s not worth a fuck!” (217), lead Henry to be dependent on alcohol without his realization. In other words, he has become dependent on the ability to run away from his reality by letting alcohol solve his problems. Henry is having trouble in life but maybe in the near future he can find the good in life and maybe find love to help him out because he has never truly found it; “maybe love, was all they had” (275) and maybe all he needs.

    Alexander Vincelli

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  24. We see signs of Henry’s progress, becoming more attentive to those he surrounds himself with, slowly becoming less self absorbed. As a result of Henry’s upbringing, and events that made him feel self-conscious, and/or rejected by society, Henry felt he was alone in a world that didn’t accept loners, underdogs, and outcasts; “what I minded was that they didn’t know how to deal with me,” (136). Just one hundred pages later we’re able to see that his perception of himself and of his past hasn’t changed all that much, when he states, “I had no Freedom. I had nothing, (236). Eventually as time went on, Henry made connections with people he otherwise would never have given the time of day. When he discovers that others have the same passion of releasing their emotions on a page, whether it be visible or not, Henry allows them to experience his more vulnerable attributes, sensitive yet resilient. Although he’s showing signs of progress, it seems as though Henry is trapped in a loop, as soon as there’s hope of a better outcome, alcohol triggers his defensive/aggressive side of him. Almost as though he feels he has to fight every batter. His addiction to alcohol brings him back to the past, where he’s still trying to fit the pieces together and figure out what went wrong and where. Although there are signs that Henry’s character is evolving into a more suitable human being, there are also signs that he hasn’t changed at all, that his progress is merely a lie; “my white t-shit stained with wine, burned, with many cigarettes and cigar holes, spotted with blood and vomit,” (254).

    Chelsea Silva-Martin

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  25. Towards the end of the novel, we meet a new side of Henry. As we could gather information about this character throughout the novel, we can identify him as a character that is focused on how people see him and how he seems to the world surrounding him. He seems to be very worried of his appearance and shows a lot of sensitivity and vulnerability as a child. As we advance through the novel, he tries to be a tough guy and identifies as a loner by choice, although it might not be much of a choice. As he is growing up, every adult around him seems to be desperate and sad, which allows us to believe that with all the pain and suffering he has encountered, he would become the same way. In fact, he comes a drunk and develops a very violent character, even if he used to be very different as a child. All the sensitivity and kindness has vanished from Henry’s heart and he has become like his father: a cruel, drunk and violent man. Although he takes on this façade of the tough guy, he becomes a very lonely man with a lot of regrets and suffering haunting his life: “Sitting there drinking, I considered suicide, but I felt a strange fondness for my body, my life” (274). Through this passage, we can see that Henry is miserable, but also that he feels a sort of comfort within this misery.  “The nights so young, I usually drink until the sun comes up” (232), this is another passage that really speaks to Henry’s drinking problem, we can see that through drinking till the sun comes up, Henry is trying to forget and to escape his feelings since he is miserable. I feel like through the drinking he disguises his emotions and feelings, and portrays himself as a emotionless and tough person, which leads us to believe that he is actually a very hurt and sensitive man hiding this through alcohol abuse.

    Savana Di Quinzio

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  26. From the very beginning of the book, we realize that Henry is like no ordinary kid. He’s not someone who gets along with most other people and has a very complex character. In the last few chapters, we recognize a change in Henry’s behaviour for example when he picks a fight with Jimmy, a guy from his high school days (214). Back then in his high school days, Henry didn’t fit in with the others so he despised many people and Jimmy was one of them. Jimmy was calling Henry names but little did he know, Henry had gotten a lot more angry and violent since high school. His addiction to alcohol is one of the main reasons for his violent side because he is mostly drunk when he acts up. Drinking is an escape for Henry and is something that he can do alone for the most part. Henry states, “I don’t get any thrill trying to be a man”(278). I really like this line, and I believe this represents how Henry is just so over trying to be something he isn’t. Like we saw in the documentary of his life, he keeps a steady job at the post office but resigns because he believes his life has other meaning to it. Henry likes to be away from the real world and live in his own space where he can do and say what he pleases. If that means he is an underdog or an outcast then he is ready to accept it as so.

    Andrew Augoustis

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  27. Throughout the end of the novel we see how little Henry has evolved when it comes to his place in the world. As we entered the novel, Henry was a little boy having a rough time fitting in anywhere and now that the end has been reached, he is tough man with no place to go. He has been through a lot; he has not had an easy life, yet none of it has helped him in finding some sort of purpose or role or meaning to his existence. He would rather find an escape “Anything, anything to stop drowning in this dull, trivial existence” (Bukowski 210). He is surrounded by people who accuse him of this; by people who talk as if they have figured out the meaning of life while he is still struggling to walk on his own two feet. This ‘shunning’ from his peers is really what keeps Henry as the underdog and outcast of the story, “These people knew what to do and they wouldn’t talk. I felt as if I was in grammar school again, being mutilated by the crowd who knew more than I did” (Bukowski 222), along with the fact that he has no desire to escape that status. Through the end of the novel, we also catch a glimpse of all the creatures he saved in the beginning of the novel, proving again how nothing has changed except that Henry is a little bit tougher; he feeds the dog, kills the spider (that has been closing in on its prey at the start of the novell) and acknowledges the cat walking outside his door. I like this wink to the audience from Bukowski, how everything comes full circle, proving again how nothing has really changed, “All my life, in that neighborhood, I had been walking into spiderwebs, I had been attacked by blackbirds, I had lived with my father. Everything was eternally dreary, dismal, damned” (Bukowski 244).

    Charlotte Lapointe

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  28. At the end of the novel, Henry has successfully hardened into an obnoxious yet self-conscious, threatening, and intelligent young man. He is very much aware of the fact that there is some intangible quality that sets him apart from the rest of his peers, whether it be his coworkers at his one week Mears-Starbuck gig or the people he meets at L.A. City College. The way that he could sense the differences in the way social groups interact with one another in comparison with the way they interacted with him seemed to bother him very much and I feel that a lot of the frustration came from trying to figure out what they knew that he didn’t. However, he gained some confidence by reminding himself that one day he would know something that they didn’t. Up until page 230, Henry has a strong feeling of not belonging, not with his family or to anyone else. This doesn’t exactly change, but after meeting Robert Becker and his friends he realizes that he is not the only one who is so different from the rich kids and their colorful cars. Despite his intellect, he was very quick to turn a miscommunication into an act of violence or threat like when Igor Stirnov squeezes his hand too tightly, “Let go,” I said, “or I’ll bust your fucking missing neck!”(238).

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  29. Throughout the novel Henry repeatedly attempts to show off his masculinity by fighting other people, drinking and pushing everyone away. He wants to come off as this tough individual who does not need anyone in his life. However, through the rest of the novel we can see this sadness that appears to be lying behind his rough exterior. Deep down it appears that the character truly just wants to be loved and nurtured like every child should have been. He is definitely lacking the love of a family and friends considering how his parents are and the type of guys he always surrounded himself with. An example of his need to be tough and not let anyone in is shown when he attacks his own “friend” for no apparent reason. His friend was saying how they were friends and as soon as someone begins to get close Henry needs to reassure his role of being a loner and never needing anyone because deep down he fears the abandonment. This soft and fragile side of Hnery is represented near the end of the novel when he plays a video game with a little boy. His sensitive side comes into play as we watch him play with this young infant. There is a symbolic meaning within the ending where the young boy although his character had only one arm her was able to beat Henry. This symbolizes how although Henry is broken, hollow and cold he is still a fighter no matter what he lacks in personality or looks. He will always fight back.

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  30. Henry has grown into a rough on the outside but also caring and sensitive on the inside kind of person. He shows his toughness by getting drunk and getting into fights. He even fights with his friend Fatshoes and Jimmy while they are at his apartment playing games. Henry says to Jimmy and Fatshoes ” Yeah, Fuckers? Im not going anywhere! Anytime you want to find me i’ll be in room 5! I’ll be waiting room 5, got it? And the door will be open.” In this he’s showing that he is not scraed of retaliation and that he is ready for anyone that wants to come after him. This is how he shows his tough exterior and tries to keep the persona he has built for himself of not caring about anything and being the toughest guy. Later in the novel Henry does show his caring side when he is in the arcade and a little mexican boy comes in. He asks the boy if he wants to play him in the boxing game and that he would pay for the boy. He then plays with him and he sees that the boy was able to beat him even with a broken fighter. He then plays again with him and the same thing happens again.

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  31. Near the end of novel, Henry has grown to be an adult. However, I do not feel that he has matured. His mentality and thought process are the same as it was in High School. The main difference that is apparent is his dependence to alcohol. Additionally he has grown to be more violent and aggressive, nevertheless he talks more than he acts. In regards to his alcohol dependecy, we notice his ability to drink copious amounts when he plays a drinking game with Becker and his friends. After beating the majority, Henry comes face to face with the last member of the group “I knew there was no way I could get that drink down . I did the only thing I could do. I pretended it was easy.” (233) This shows how Henry knows is still trying to prove himself to everyone. In regards to Henry’s family life, Henry verbally stands up against his father. After his father threw away his short stories, Henry screams out:”TELL HIM TO COME OUT HERE AND I’LL KNOCK HIS GOD-DAMNED HEAD OFF!” (246) This truly demonstrates that he no longer the young boy who is afraid and that his father does not have any significant role in his life.

    Melvin Buquerente

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  32. At the end of the novel Henry develops into a complex and apathetic character. He become completely submerged into his own reality of what he believes the world is a whole. He no longer sees anyone to impress with strength or status, violence and anger have become who he is and his reactions to people are engraved into his being. For example, at the beginning of the novel Henry describes attempting to stop his friends from killing a spider, but later he kills two of them on a whim. I believe he does this because he no longer ceases to care, and solely become his actions, becoming the evil he faught against taking place of the people he was once discussed by ” A worth while day– I had killed two spiders, I had upset the balance of nature– now we would all be eaten by the bugs and the flies” (245)

    He also rejects the fantasies that he had as a child. He used to dream of recognition, such as him being a fantastic baseball player and such. At the end, he doesn’t care what he will be, he just knows that he is dicusted by the world and its people. ” I still knew, as I did as a child, that there was something strange about myself. I felt as if I was destined to be a murderer, a bank robber, a saint, a rapist, a monk, a hermit. I needed an isolated place to hide.” (274)
    He comes to see that he only wants isolation and not the approval of others, it never got him anywhere.

    Michelle Jette

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