The 1990s Newbery Medal Winners The View from Saturday Major Themes

According to Konigsburg, the theme that unites the stories in The View From Saturday is "kindness and the courage it takes to be kind." After winning the state championship of the Academic Bowl, Mr. Singh tells Mrs. Olinski that "The Souls have all returned from a journey. . . . Noah found something at Century Village; Nadia on the Sargasso Sea; Ethan on the bus. . . ." and Julian, who had the longest journey of all, at Epiphany Middle School. Mr. Singh tells Mrs. Olin-ski that she found the same thing at Sillington House that The Souls found on their journey — kindness in others and the ability to see it in themselves.

Through Mr. Singh, Konigsburg explains her notion, "that the human brain must be jump-started with experience. . . ." Konigsburg asks whether or not a person can possibly know kindness if he or she has never been treated with kindness. She concludes that if people have never known kindness, they are not aware it is absent from their lives. By understanding and appreciating kindness in others, The Souls are able to develop kindness within themselves. Their kindness enables them to help others, which binds them together as friends. For example, when presented with cruelty, The Souls take action. Ethan protects Julian from bullies; Julian protects Nadia's dog, as well as his enemy's dog, from harm; and all four of The Souls protect Mrs. Olin-ski from being mistreated.

The bond of friendship that develops between the members of The Souls portrays the interdependence, or teamwork, that cannot function without respect, trust, acceptance, and courtesy. The Souls' team work is exhibited when each member of The Souls puts an arm in the air or a leg in the aisle in their classroom — without having spoken to each other ahead of time — to signify their commitment to support Mrs. Olinski. Mrs. Olinski comments about The Souls and the way they "seemed to communicate with a secret stealth language that slipped beneath thought." After defeating Knightsbridge in the Academic Bowl, The Souls again seem to be thinking as one:

Ethan said, "Look, Ma, no hands," and Noah said, "Look, Ma, no legs," and Nadia thought, "Sometimes people need a lift between switches," and Julian said nothing but rubbed the little ivory monkey in his pocket.

The Souls made a commitment to support Mrs. Olinski, and they live up to their commitment.

Sensitivity to social issues in society is another major theme in The View From Saturday. Konigsburg presents the concept of diversity, from the viewpoint of educators, as a fad — something that is only temporarily important or popular. Dr. Rohmer, the District Superintendent of Clarion County, feels enlightened because he has attended a workshop on multiculturalism. He ignorantly informs Mrs. Olinski that "Jews, half-Jews, and WASPs have nothing to do with diversity." Other groups, such as East Indians and handicapped people, also seem to be excluded from diversity. Konigsburg portrays the educators who advocate diversity as people who are using the issue for their own personal advancement rather than for the advancement of diverse groups in society.

Another social issue that Konigsburg portrays is the change that has taken place in the way young people view education, adults, and peers. Mrs. Olinski is shocked to realize that her sixth graders don't seem to be interested in learning. They ask "So what?" instead of "Now what?" When Mrs. Olinski explains to her class that she is a paraplegic, an insensitive student writes the word "cripple" on the chalkboard during the lunch break. Even though Mrs. Olinski's observations allude to the overall impression that sixth graders, and the majority of students in general, do not care about learning, Konigsburg does not leave out the sixth graders who do care about learning. The Souls, members of the Academic Bowl team, spend their free time studying and drilling for the competition. They inspire other students to become involved in the Academic Bowl as spectators because their school is accomplishing an unexpected feat. Suddenly, knowledge becomes popular.

Through the unique journey that each character experiences, Konigsburg explores the question that every human being asks during the course of a lifetime: "Who am I?" She also depicts the interdependence that exists between people as well as the responsibility that everyone has to show kindness to others. Konigsburg also conveys her hope for understanding of all diverse groups and the importance of education.

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