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Book Report of My Darling, My Hamburger by Paul Zinder

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Book Report of My Darling, My Hamburger by Paul Zinder
« on: June 14, 2020, 08:57:07 AM »
Book Summaries help you understand books studied in schools and give you insights that make for great book reports. Gain a new perspective by reading about the author, and learn how settings, characters, and themes help make these books acclaimed works of literature.
 
 
My Darling, My Hamburger - More books at https://www.abebooks.co.uk/ 
Published 1969
 
I
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
 
Paul Zindel was born on May 15, 1936, in Staten Island, New York. When Zindel was very young, his father abandoned the family, reducing Paul, his mother, and his sister to poverty. The Zindels moved frequently, thus remaining perpetual outsiders in the ethnic neighborhoods of Staten Island. Diagnosed with tuberculosis at age fifteen, Zindel was sent to a sanatorium called Stony Wold for a year and a half. Despite these setbacks, Zindel managed to graduate from Port Richmond High School only a year late and went on to Wagner College in Staten Island, New York, where he graduated with a bachelor of science degree in 1958.
 
Zindel served briefly as a technical writer for a chemical company, but had little interest in the job. He returned to Wagner College, received a master of science degree, and taught chemistry at Totenville High School in Staten Island from 1959 to 1969. Even before Zindel graduated from college, he began to write for the theater; his early work was promising enough to earn him a Ford Foundation grant to sharpen his talent at Houston's Alley Theatre.
 
Although Zindel still regards himself primarily as a playwright and screenwriter, he has been a critically and commercially successful young adult writer as well. Zindel's play The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, first produced in Houston in 1964, was an immense commercial and critical success, winning an Obie Award for best new American play (1970), a Pulitzer Prize for drama (1971), a New York Drama Critics Circle Award for best American play (1969), and a Drama Disk Award (1970). The play attracted the attention of an editor from Harper and Row, who recognized Zindel's potential for writing about adolescents. Marriage to his wife Bonnie on October 25, 1973, and the birth of two children have furnished Zindel with a collaborator and fresh material for years to come.
 
His father's decision to abandon the family remains an important early influence on Zindel's fiction. Like the teenagers he writes about, Zindel sees himself as an outsider. Parents and teachers in Zindel's novels generally appear hostile, although adult women fare better than adult men. As a writer, Zindel seems fascinated by the causes of hatred, particularly adolescent self-hate, and his novels usually feature adolescents who recover a positive sense of self. His work also examines those people—parents, peers, teachers—who make adolescents doubt themselves. For twenty years, young adults have responded favorably to Zindel's work; despite his age, Zindel seems to be one of them.
 
II
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OVERVIEW
 
My Darling, My Hamburger is a novel about adolescent love. The four main characters—Liz, Sean, Dennis, and Maggie—experience difficulties with their parents, their desires, their expectations of love, and their responsibilities. Dennis and Maggie, like many adolescents, think of themselves as grotesque, and envy Sean and Liz, who, on the surface, seem self-assured. Liz's and Sean's parents—particularly Liz's stepfather and Sean's father—erode their children's ability to love; Dennis's and Maggie's parents are supportive but largely unaware of their children's needs.
 
Like all of Zindel's novels, My Darling, My Hamburger is told from the teen-agers' perspectives. But unlike The Pigman, which features first-person narration, My Darling, My Hamburger has a third-person omniscient narrator who relates the main characters' thoughts. The novel is both melodramatic and suspenseful, filled with romantic sentiment, adventure, and fast-paced action. Because of the fear and anxiety generated by Liz's pregnancy and abortion, My Darling, My Hamburger contains little of the humor usually found in Zindel's fiction.
 
III
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SETTING
 
My Darling, My Hamburger takes place in the 1960s in a waterfront community much like Zindel's own Staten Island, but the setting is never pinpointed. For Liz, Sean, Dennis, and Maggie, all high school seniors, life is measured by the school year. Though the four are friends, Maggie's and Dennis's lower-middle-class backgrounds seem to separate them from Liz and Sean, who come from more socially established middle-class families. The pressures of teachers' and parents' expectations weigh heavily on all four characters.
 
IV
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THEMES AND CHARACTERS
 
Maggie Tobin is a plump, somewhat unattractive girl with little self-confidence, particularly in relationships with boys. Her best friend, Liz Carstensen, represents all that Maggie would like to be: attractive, articulate, and confident. But Liz is afraid of and disgusted by her stepfather and has no rapport with her mother, who has submerged her own personality in order to live in peace with her husband. Liz's mother constantly harasses her about dating the right kind of boy, while her stepfather barrages her with a daunting stream of verbal abuse. His excessive concern with Liz's sexual activity arouses suspicion of his own sexual interest in her. Liz's boyfriend, Sean Collins, must also weather parental disapproval. Sean's father is a macho male stereotype who cannot understand a son who prefers creative writing to football. Sean's alienation from his father extends to his relationship with society in general. He sees no good in anyone but Liz, and at various times in the past he has seriously contemplated suicide, even calculating how fast his head would fly off if he shot himself. Sean's buddy Dennis Holowitz is self-conscious, shy, and acutely embarrassed about his personal appearance. In Maggie's words, he is somewhat 'weird-looking ... like an undernourished zucchini.' Dennis also experiences a typical inability to communicate with his parents.
 
All four teenagers mature sexually and emotionally during their senior year. Maggie and Dennis become a couple, first because Liz and Sean push them into dating, but eventually because they truly like each other. Maggie loses weight, learns to control her wispy hair so that it no longer looks like 'thin fungus,' and begins to think of herself as a normal human being. Dennis's body begins to fill out, and he learns to minimize his ungainly height so that he looks less like a human erector set. His friendship with Maggie encourages his self-confidence. Unfortunately for Dennis and Maggie, their growing relationship ends abruptly because of complications in the more intense relationship between Sean and Liz.
 
Zindel explores the consequences of premarital sex through Liz and Sean's relationship. When the novel begins, Liz is already fending off Sean's hands and his assertion that sex is natural because 'we love each other, don't we?' Liz's unwillingness to have intercourse temporarily ends their relationship. Parental difficulties further estrange the couple: Liz's mother praises her for realizing that Sean is not good enough for her, while Sean's father intercepts Liz's letter of apology. Seeking to make Sean jealous, Liz deliberately throws herself at the good-looking Rod, who once deserted a girl who was pregnant with his child. Maggie's timely intercession with Sean, Sean's rescue of Liz when Rod nearly rapes her, and Liz's anger with her stepfather's unwarranted accusation of sexual promiscuity lead Liz and Sean to a physical expression of their love.
 
Two months before graduation Liz becomes pregnant. When Liz first tells Sean, he is shocked, but says that he loves her and is willing to accept his responsibility. All too soon, however, Sean is racked by second thoughts, for he realizes that marriage will ruin his chances for college and a career. Approaching his father under the pretext of inquiring for a friend, Sean receives the advice that he does not, and yet does, want to hear: abortion. Liz cannot confide in her parents any more than Sean can talk honestly with his father, so she goes through with an illegal abortion, arranged for her by the rejected but cynically amused Rod. Maggie breaks an important date with Dennis to be with Liz, and Dennis, who is unaware of the problem, is left feeling ugly, hurt, and unwanted.
 
All four suffer from the effects of the abortion. When Maggie discovers that Liz is hemorrhaging, she breaks her vow of silence and tells Liz's parents about the abortion. Liz, who would rather die than have her stepfather know, feels that Maggie has betrayed her trust. Thus, in one night, Maggie loses her best friend and her boyfriend. Although Maggie and Dennis finally talk at their graduation, their relationship has changed, and Maggie is left with the realization that maturation involves looking back and seeing former selves as naive or silly. Maggie and Dennis have matured, and their year together has been a part of this process, but their lives will now go in different directions. Sean also graduates, but as Maggie watches him accept his diploma, she sees that the abortion has scarred his life, that he will always remember Liz and his unborn child, and that he will never be able to run away from his past.
 
Although Zindel stresses that both sexes pay a price for entering into sexual relationships before they are ready, he realistically portrays Liz as bearing the brunt of the consequences. Liz is not at graduation; she is sunk into obscurity with her ineffectual mother and obscene stepfather, paying an enormous price for a mistake she and Sean both made. Both Liz and Sean suffer a loss of personal identity by playing roles created for them by their parents.
 
V
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LITERARY QUALITIES
 
For a short novel, My Darling, My Hamburger has a complex narrative perspective. Notes, letters, a short story by Sean, and other bits and pieces in the first-person voice supplement the novel's third-person omniscient narration. Despite this shifting perspective, Zindel maintains a remarkable continuity. The varied points of view efficiently reveal the family and personal problems of each character.
 
The shifting narrative perspective also helps to set emotional tone for different parts of the novel—generally melodramatic for Liz and Sean's story, and quietly comic for Maggie and Dennis's. What humor exists in My Darling, My Hamburger arises from Maggie's and Dennis's blundering attempts to meet social expectations without sacrificing self-respect. Sean's pain is best revealed by what he says in veiled ways; he voices his grief at the abortion in his short story 'The Circus of Blackness,' in which a boy places a baby's neck in the path of a guillotine. The silence that follows Liz after her abortion almost feels like the death of her personality.
 
Zindel juxtaposes pieces of narrative in interesting ways, and a symbolic system evolves naturally from repetition in the action. The author's most artful use of juxtaposition is the contrast established by alternating the text of the documentary Primitive Love, which shows the natural sexuality of the Wambesi, with the tortured self-consciousness of Maggie's and Dennis's monologues. Symbols take shape in the consciousness of Sean and Liz. The mail-order astrological prediction that advises Liz to 'pray to the Madonna' and her mother's gift of a Madonna serve as an apparent prophetic curse. Even the structure of toothpicks that Sean mocks oddly describes his own house and his family's ambitions.
 
VI
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SOCIAL SENSITIVITY
 
While My Darling, My Hamburger features positive adult characters in Mrs. Tobin and the Holowitzes, the general picture of adults is a brutal one. Mr. Zamborsky, a teacher, is always shouting and blowing a whistle; he seems thoroughly insensitive. The same is true for most other adults in the novel, which features a self-satisfied, callous Mr. Collins, a mother who sacrifices her daughter to her husband, and a stepfather who regards his stepdaughter with brutal and prurient interest. Adolescents may enjoy the adult caricatures in Zindel's writing, while adults may question Zindel's fairness.
 
The major issues in the novel are abortion and teen-age premarital sex. These issues are controversial, but Zindel avoids profanity and graphic sexuality. The many voices in the narrative broaden its perspective, and the novel does not judge or advocate; it merely describes the moral dilemmas adolescents face while learning about love. Zindel does, however, present Maggie's ethical love of others in a favorable way. Her choices cost her, but one can only admire her for them.
 
Zindel emphasizes the importance of personal responsibility. While Liz's and Sean's troubles are triggered in part by their parents' attitudes and actions, their difficulties also arise from their desire to abandon responsibility for themselves and others at critical times. Zindel calls for tough decision-making in My Darling, My Hamburger.
 
Contributed by: Craig Barrow
 
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
 
Diana Barrow
 
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
 
Source: Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults. Copyright by Gale Group, Inc. Reprinted by permission.
 
 
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Romans 10:9-10
"If you declare with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved."

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Re: Book Report of My Darling, My Hamburger by Paul Zinder
« Reply #1 on: June 29, 2020, 08:23:34 AM »

More books at https://www.abebooks.co.uk/
VII
TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION
1. While the Tobins love Maggie and the Holowitzes love Dennis, both adolescents have some difficulties with their families. What are the difficulties each character faces, and how are Maggie's and Dennis's difficulties similar?
2. How do Liz's problems with her mother and stepfather influence her relationship with Sean?
3. Describe Sean's relationship with his father. How does it influence his relationship with Liz?
4. What choices do Liz's pregnancy and her decision to have an abortion force upon Maggie? Do you think Maggie chooses correctly?
5. What makes Sean abandon Liz during her pregnancy? How does this decision affect him?
6. What happens to Maggie and Dennis at the novel's end? How do they feel about their relationship? How do they feel about themselves?
VIII      IDEAS FOR REPORTS AND PAPERS
1. Unwanted pregnancies remain a major problem in the United States, despite several means of birth control. Why is this the case? Why are Sean and Liz faced with this problem?
2. Discuss the shifting narrative vision of My Darling, My Hamburger, considering the first-person documents and the third-person narration colored by the consciousnesses of the four major characters. How successful is this narrative approach in conveying Zindel's meaning?
3. Write an essay describing what Maggie has learned from her experiences with Liz, Sean, and Dennis.
4. Liz's stepfather is an unsympathetic character who contributes much to Liz's pain. What are the problems that stepchildren and stepparents often experience?
5. Zindel juxtaposes the text of the documentary Primitive Love with Maggie's and Dennis's monologues to emphasize the awkwardness of their relationship. Identify and discuss other instances of such juxtaposition in the novel. Is this an effective device?


IX RELATED TITLES
Several of Zindel's novels resemble My Darling, My Hamburger. In terms of narrative technique, most of Zindel's novels show sophistication in point of view and symbolic development. The two first-person narrators in The Pigman serve similar functions to the narrative voices in My Darling, My Hamburger. Zindel's biases and values are consistent from novel to novel; for the most part, he is hostile to adults and caricatures them without mercy, although his characterizations of women are more sympathetic than those of men.

Linkback: https://tubagbohol.mikeligalig.com/index.php?topic=114073.msg685225#msg685225
Romans 10:9-10
"If you declare with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved."

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