"Every character in this book has a story. So who is the main character? Is there one?" asked one of the young readers. What followed was an invigorating debate.
We are reading the book, The Unteachables by Gordon Korman. As the name suggests the book revolves around a class of students who have been shoved into a classroom and branded as the "Unteachables." As the name suggests, every student there is considered to be a problem, a student that cannot be taught. Oddly enough, they are recognized for what they can't do rather than build on what they can do. This book helps every reader to connect with the characters and incidents in different ways. Although it is children's book it has something for adults- teachers and parents too. It brings to light how unconsciously the teaching community sometimes just gives up on students who struggle with studies.
In the first few chapters we get a glimpse of what this class of
'Unteachables' look like. Picture a fire in the waste paper basket and one of the characters toasting marsh mellows over the fire. Looks can be misleading. This class may look like a unruly class but there is more that is there than meets the eye. Things supposedly are likely to get worse when they are assigned a teacher who appears least interested in teaching anyone for that matter. What will become of this class? That's what the story is about and it is a heartwarming story with subtle moments of humour along the way. Every character in the book has a story which explains why they are who they are.
Who is the protagonist or otherwise known as the main character in this story?
One of the readers raised this question. Since almost every character in this book has a story and the story is narrated from their perspectives as well, the question of who is the main character in the story came up. The reader who raised this question argued that since the teacher in the story has a longer history than anyone else, he must be the main character. Another reader added that since he is the one whose actions are carrying the story forward, he must be the protagonist in the story. The opposing team, had a different choice. They chose a new student who accidentally lands in this classroom. She is in the school for a period of only two months and decides to settle in this class as she finds them an interesting lot. "She narratives some parts of the story and hence she must be the protagonist in the story," they argued. "She narrates what she is witnessing and observing." A reader who first chose to be neutral and asked to decide only at the end of the book as she wanted to observe the whole plot before making up her mind, couldn't stop herself after listening to this intent debate. She explained how the teacher's detailed history has an effect on many of his actions makes him the protagonist.
Who is right or who is wrong, probably matters less. What definitely matters more, is that the group was able to take this question on their own accord, think about it, express arguments to support their point of view and in the process engage in a healthy debate. This wasn't a test of whether they were following the book. It was simply fun looking at the same book from different perspectives. To the joys of reading together!