By Karyna Statko
Ham on Rye, by Charles Bukowski, is a novel about a kid who is growing up at the time of The Great Depression in America. His parents are trying to do something for him but he never agree with what they are doing. Because of this he is growing up as an underdog but he decided to change his life at one point. I can relate myself to Henry’s character. I relate to his strong character, as it resembles so much as mine. I also considered that I was as well an underdog at one point in my life. Henry’s parents always made him as an underdog because they never asked him what does he wants in his life, they never cares about him. Henry’s strong character helps him a lot throughout his entire life.
It was a sunny day of September, I was around 10 years old, and it was my first day of Kung-Fu classes. I was so excited of my first class. At the academy they were a lot of other kids who were older or younger than me. I began to worry but my mother told me that I should not be worry about this. It was hard for me but I understood that it was also important for me. At that time my only thought just that it can help me with my physical form and I didn’t think about anything else. Sometimes I had a hysteric that is hard for me and that I can’t do it anymore but my trainer said me that if I’ll leave I cannot come back anymore. At that point I understood that this is so important for me, and all this situations made me stronger. Kung-Fu classes made me not just stronger physically but my personality and my confidence also. This all made my character so strong. I think that these classes helped me a lot because it help me push myself further than I would if I wouldn’t had taken that class. All of this has helped my character as now I always push myself to reach what I want.
Henry’s character starts to build up when he was a kid. Henry’s father always tries to “give him a lesson” by hitting him. It repeated over and over again and this made him stronger. All the time it was the same thing happen. “All right, Henry. Into the bathroom. All right, take down your pants. Pull down your shorts.” (39). Henry as a submissive in this situation and his father a dominant. “The first blow inflicted more shock than pain. The second hurt more. Each blow which followed increased the pain” (39). The reader can feel all the emotions that Henry feels at this moment because probably most people felt this when they were kids and were spank my they parents. But Henry never cried while his father was hitting him. Henry was always expecting support from his mother, but he never received it, she was always on dad’s side: “The father is always right” (39) as she used to say. HOW DID THEY MAKE HIM FEEL? HOW DID THAT AFFECT HIM? From this mother’s position Henry knows that his opinion means nothing in this world but he wants to change this. HE LEARNS PAIN FOR NO REASON. WHERE ELSE DOES HE LEARN THAT IN THE NOVEL
When Henry was going to into 9th grade the problem of most of the teenagers attacked him: “I broke out with acne” (122). But his was really terrible one, not as others kids had it. His parents didn’t even come with him to the hospital to know the reason of all boils. When Henry was coming to the hospital he met there a woman with a little boy. This little boy was really scared of him because he was asking to his mother, “What’s wrong with that man’s face?” (127). He was asking over and over again until finally his mother was screaming at him and telling that she doesn’t know. When Henry finally gets to see the doctor, the doctor decided that they will treat them with “electric needle” (132). Henry say; “I was being drilled. The pain was immense” (134). He feels pain so much but he is not showing it. This is due to the fact that he is already used to have a pain for no reason. He was one of those poor kids who were “selected to be this way” (137). This affected his character as it makes him feel less confided on himself and also lowers his self-esteem.
By the end of the novel we can see that Henry has grown as an underdog because of everything that’s happened to him during his life. The situation with his father just confirms that even his parents think that he is not good enough to be their son. This can be seen when Henry’s mom says, “Henry, he found your short stories and he read them! 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). Henry’s mother is also trying to protect him from his father who read his stories. By saying “He said that he was going to kill you!” and telling him this in advance we can see that his mother is worrying about him and even if she considers him an underdog she will always carry for him. His dad considers him already as an underdog but his mother shows that she cares about him for the first time. By doing this she is trying to show that she loves him no matter who he is.
Henry’s character starts to develop as he is starting to care more about what he loves doing, which is writing. This can be seen when Henry’s mother says: “Henry, he’s thrown all your clothes out on the front lawn, all your dirty laundry, your typewriter, your suitcase and your stories! My stories? I’ll kill him!” (246). Henry worries more about his stories at this moment. He does not care about his clothes. For Henry his stories are what it is really important for him. He wants to be a writer and this is his dream. Henry meets with Becker and they have a conversation about writing. “Yeah but it’s petty hopeless. You mean that you’re not good enough? No, they are not good enough” (258). Henry already consider him as a good writer and he thinks that he is much more better than everybody else think of him. Henry believes that he is not an underdog but he is better and it is everybody else are not good enough. By thinking like this Henry confirms to himself that he has a strong character that is hard to destroy and do something bad for him.
Throughout this novel it is possible to see how Henry’s character changes and started to develop making him stronger. He is considered an underdog by people who knew him and also by his own parents. Henry realises that what he loves doing is writing and he comes protective of if. He is really good at writing and he feels that everyone else is not good enough to see his stories. Even if he is consider an underdog by everyone else he know that in reality he is more than that and that everyone else is the underdog when reading his stories. All the abuse the he had to endure has made him stronger.