By: Alexander Vincelli
Ham on Rye is a descriptive novel focusing on the author, Charles Bukowski’s lonely and difficult life growing up. The novel is all about a kid named Henry Chinaski who is a young boy who is treated with brutality from his father and other children in his school but who is also injustice and experiences moments of an outcast, a loner. Henry grows up as an outcast and must overcome the childhood issues alone. I can I can contrast to Henry’s character because I have never really felt what it was like to be an outcast. I have always felt accepted in a group. I’m the type to make friends most of the places I go or try to find something in common so it is easier for me. As I grew older, I always had my best friends but I would like to talk to new people and see how they handle life.
My life wasn’t much like Henry’s, from the abuse his parents gave to him to the fights with the other children. Henry’s childhood could be described as abusive, unloved, direct, and vulgare while on the other hand my childhood was the opposite. My childhood could have been described as energetic, family oriented, playful and achieving. Henry and I have different childhoods and here is one event that was opposite from his un-athletic childhood.
The summer has just started and my baseball season as well. I’ve trained all winter for this baseball season to start. I just turned 12 years old and just finished my years in elementary school which made me feel like a millions dollars. The baseball season started which meant for long, sunny days training and playing baseball. The beginning of the season went phenomenally. All the sweat and hard work that I have put in the training was paying off. Every at bat that I would have, I would see the baseball as big as a beach ball and I would hit every pitch. I would be at the plate telling myself; “come on pitcher, what you got for me?” with an arrogant attitude and grinning at the pitcher showing my confidence. Even when I would be playing defense I had that arrogant mentality always wanting the ball come to me so I can make the play. Half way through the baseball season, there were people talking about a big tournament in Toronto that would consist of the best players to play and represent their province. I was not focused on that because I was having fun with my team and winning. My team and I were really close and was like my second family. One day after a game that we won, an older man came up to my dad and asked to speak to me. It ended up being the coach of team Quebec and he wanted me to play for him and represent Quebec at the nationals. The chills ran through my body as soon as he said team Quebec, I had the biggest smile, from ear to ear, thinking of wearing those royal blue jersey with my name on the back and Quebec on the front. I remember this talk like it was yesterday. When seeing my parents after the talk, they were so happy for me that they just hugged me and said “you see what happens when you work hard?” and then took me out to eat at Baton Rouge. The first day practicing with the team was kind of awkward and quiet for the fact that we weren’t familiar with one another but we shared something in common which was that we were great ball players. It wasn’t long after that we started to get closer and laugh and have fun with each other playing baseball. I remember the first thing one kid said to me “I heard you can hit the ball far and that you can catch anything”. It felt great hearing that from another kid, I had chills the rest of the practice and we all bonded after that first practice because we belonged.
Henry is going through life as an outcast and is not being accepted for who he really is. He has no real friends that care for him or family members that truly love him. He puts on an act everyday going to school acting tough but when he actually is vulnerable and depressed. Throughout the years in elementary school, Henry has always been left out of school sports such as baseball games because of his looks, his un-athletic body and his behaviour with other kids’; “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” (Bukowski 29). Henry’s negative attitude about himself did not help him grow up to be a better person as well. He did not know how good it feels to have friend and participate in activities which made him say these statements. If he would actually try to make friends it could be different, even when he would try to participate, it wasn’t in his favor; “it was always the same. I would be chosen next to last…” (Bukowski 32). He was unlucky because he did not have the talent to be good in sports. The fact that he was picked last did not help his case of loneliness as well, it just added fuel to the fire. These kids did not like Henry at all for example when they called Henry out in a baseball game but he was clearly safe and just called him out because they did not like him. Henry realized at that moment of time that he “was not accepted” (Bukowski 33).These actions that happen to Henry lead up to Henry having a negative vision of the world in general or in other words seeing no light at the end of the tunnel. He does have anyone reassuring him that he is loved which makes him feel lonely. He always looks forwards to the next day because he does not like the present because of the constant lack love he doesn’t get. He believes that the next day or the next school will be different for him. Nonetheless, his years in high school didn’t turn out to be perfect. Henry still finds that the days were long and hard and when he gets his job his manager is just as cruel as his teacher was in elementary school. He acted tough and hid he depressed side by eating alone or sitting alone at lunch; “it felt good to sit alone in a small space and smoke and drink. I had always been good company for myself” (Bukowski 275). The only way he would make the feeling of an outcast go away was by drinking and smoking alone.
To make things worse for Henry, in Jr. High he had a terrible case of acne going; “the worst case in town. He had pimples and boils all over his face, back, neck and some on his chest.” (Bukowski 122). This acne problem did not help the fact because now the kids are grossed out of him and leading to him being alone again. Henry thought that started a new chapter in Jr. High would help him feel loved or accepted but it turned out to be the opposite and once again added fuel to the fire. His dad put Henry into a private school where the guys “had their own automobile, many of them new convertibles…” (Bukowski 125) and both the boys and girls were always “nicely dressed… they seemed very adult and poised and superior. And there I was in my homemade shirt, my ragged pair of pants, my rundown shoes, and I was covered in boils.” (Bukowski 126). This made him feel even more left out. Having all the boils and not being able to dress as well as the other kids was. He always had something wrong to put him right back down into his lonely life. Henry just wanted someone that accepts him for who he is because his parents was not giving the attention he needed leading Henry to be aggressive with other kids at school. His dad shows his abuse instead of love and this affects Henry’s life because Henry acts like his dad towards toe kids at school and feels that it is ok to fight. Henry’s emotions are all over and he does not know who he is and has no help which makes him feel like an outcast.
In the end, all of Henry’s negative vibes all fall back on his family and the lack of love they have for him. If the parents would show some love, Henry could have maybe not felt as a loner in the world. Henry is a unique person that will someday grow up into a man that is strong because he has already been through the worst. He is never accepted in anything he does which makes him do and act the way he does. He never had that feeling I had when the team Quebec coach told me I made the team or even when my parents heard I made the team and brought me out to eat. Maybe if his parents would have acted more often like they had a son, he wouldn’t be who he is today.
Work cited :
Bukowski, Charles. Ham on Rye. Vintage book, 1982.