The novel Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski is about the main character called Henry who seems to be Charles Bukowski himself during his childhood. Henry grew up as an outcast of the novel, always got beat by his dad, students in school was always against him and tends to be alcoholic. Henry tries to be aloof about everything and tries to show how big guy he is. I can certainly relate myself sometimes as Henry’s character. Sometimes because I had some particularly moments I was like him but I found Henry’s character, he is always trying to show is man and tells himself is worth something, it’s somewhat that I was not able to do.
I remember like it was yesterday. It was in high school on the September 14th 2014, I was a new guy in this school. The school as started since 1 week ago but it was the first time we got the gym class. Everyone knew each other’s and me I was always alone but me either I was not trying to know others students because I was shy. I was excited for the first gym class because I knew I am good in sports so I told myself maybe this day I will make friends and be more comfortable. The class started by the teacher saying that we were going to played hockey. You didn’t understand how mad and nervous I was… I am good in every sports except hockey and that’s what we were going to play on the first day. The teacher picked two students as captain and told them to choose their students in their teams. As I excepted, I was the last person to get picked but I didn’t feel bad because I never talked since the beginning of the year and they don’t know me. The game started, on my team we had two really good players, they were both playing high level in Quebec. So every 5 minutes we changed, it was my turn to play and I was playing as a forward. As the game goes on we are losing 2-1, there is 1 minute left and one of the two good players gives me a sick pass and I have a breakaway toward the goal. As I was running with the ball and the stick, I don’t know how but the stick got stuck on my leg and I felt down. Right after that the teacher whistles the end of the match, all the students of the bench started to laugh at me and one of the two good players came to me and said ‘ Esty que t’es poche’. I felt extremely bad on my heart, but I was acting like all its good. Not even one person came to me to asked if I’m okay or told me don’t worry it’s happened sometimes. Since this day, every gym classes, I never played, just sit on the bench and watched them played. I would rather fail this class then played with them.
Through the novel, we can see how Henry was always the loner at school. He was always felt alone and nobody seems to care for him. In other words, Henry was not accepted by others and he noticed: “I didn’t have any friends at school, I didn’t want any. I felt better being alone. I sat on a bench and watched the others play and they looked foolish to me” (29) This quote show us how he feels toward others, the sentence that he says, “ I felt better being alone” is very interesting because it’s telling us a lot about his feeling. He is basically saying that being with other students, he is not very comfortable, he doesn’t feel a connection with them, he doesn’t feel appreciated by them and he doesn’t feel he should be with them. I found this quote very interesting because that’s was exactly how I was feeling on this gym class and after that. I felt better being alone because there is nobody that can be there and tells me bad things or just to be against me. As him I was sitting on the bench and watched them play, because why played when you know they just wait on a moment to laugh at you or saying how bad you are? But the difference between me and Henry is that, he was trying to prove a tough he is. In a part on the novel, after a gym class, the boys are in the shower and Henry says, “I found out I had the biggest balls of anybody.” (91) He wants to show to everyone how tough he is. Though on a way, yes you guys can be against me or not accepted me but on the other side he doesn’t care because he knows he’s worth something. Afterward, the others boys seem surprise and Henry feel great about that. In Jr.high, many guy got acne but Henry’s case was serious. He was terrible apparently. That was good for him because for once he seems to be accepted as a tough guy: “I watched people afar, it was like a stage play. Only they were on stage and I was an audience of one.” (122) By this quote we see that he starts to gain confidence for once. He was always wanted to be known as a though guy to others and now he seems to have it. That’s what I didn’t have from Henry, to show at everyone how tough I can be.
Henry learns from all those stuffs he got through. As we know his parent was always beating him. Every time his dad got the opportunity to hit him, he would do it. Henry says once, “I went through much agony but I was proud each time I added some seconds to my record.”(113) He is basically saying how pain makes him stronger. All those pain he got, it makes him realized how big guy he can be. Henry also has sensitivity toward animals. When it was walking at his job on his first day at work he noticed that a dog was following him and he gives half of his sandwich at the dog. The way he is describing the dog it’s very interesting because he seems to relate with his life: “ The poor creature was terribly thin; I could see his ribs poking through his skin. Most of his fur had fallen off. What remained clung in dry, twisted patches. The dog was beaten, cowed, deserted, frightened, a victim of Homo sapiens.” (201) The dog tends to be Henry himself and he feels the connection with him. As Henry, the dog seems not to be accepted by others or again in love by others. And that’s why Henry gives the half of his sandwich at the dog, he knows what the dog is going through and he feels extremely bad for him. Henry always got beat by his dad and his classmates who didn’t respect him.
Finally, Henry ends up by becoming an alcoholic. I tend to understand him because as human being, there is nothing worse than to have a feeling that you are not appreciated by others. You feel useless; you do not feel deserved in this world and that’s how I fell back then. There is part at the end where you can see that he starts to drink: “ Drink was the only thing that kept a man from feeling forever stunned and useless“ (244) By drinking, Henry feels more conformable. He feels himself; he feels nobody can be there and for once useless. He wants to do nothing but drink and I felt bad for him because nobody in this world deserves that.
In conclusion, Henry becomes as a tough from his childhood. He had to learn life by himself. His parent who was not really there for him and other kids that was always against him. In other way, Henry grew up to act as a tough guy. I think if his dad was more there for him, instead of beating him for no reason, Henry would received love from others and could enjoyed his childhood.
Work cited :
Bukowski, Charles. Ham on Rye. Vintage book, 1982.