character analysis of george stoyonovich from a summers reading by bernard malamud

Motivation is what gives us the driving force in our lives. It’s what makes us human as we naturally have a primal instinct to succeed. Without it, we would have no desire to achieve and no goals to set in life. The anti-force of motivation is discouragement. It is fueled by fear, frustration, failure, and fatigue. Bernard Malamud’s character George Stoyonovich, in “A Summer’s Reading”, is a teenager lacking motivation and direction in life because of the various elements of discouragement working against him. Malamud shows his qualities through the introduction of the change-maker, Mr.Cattanzera. It’s through him and his subtle guidance George experiences a lesson of life.

In the first part of the story, George is a young teenager who is unmotivated and discouraged. He quit school impulsively because of his lack of patience and frustration, and this led to him being ashamed of himself whenever someone inquired about his education. One of the fuels of discouragement, failure, drains George of any drive to go back to school because the failure of shame and earning respect from others prevents him going back to school. Another fuel of discouragement, frustration, was the initial and ongoing cause of George’s discouragement. He was frustrated with how the teachers always told him what to do and felt that they did not respect him. This is what kept him from going to school and led to his unhealthy mindset to earn respect through lying to others.

Near the middle of the story, George thinks about his future. This is the first sign of any goal setting in his otherwise mundane and monotonous life. It is at this time that Malamud introduces Mr.Cattanzera, the change-maker. This is also when George ends up lying to Mr.Cattanzera for respect. One of the fuels of discouragement, fear, makes George desire respect because fear makes him lie to earn it because he’s scared about not being respected or liked. This is an unhealthy mindset.

After lying to Mr.Cattanzera, the rumors spread to make George appear respectable and likeable. He felt approved by the people around him. He felt, although temporary, good. However, the silence of Mr.Cattanzera made George feel uneasy but more importantly, it made him feel afraid. Therefore, George decided to stay away from Mr.Cattanzera until he was able to finish a few books. However, he became discouraged and lost interest. One of the fuels of discouragement, fatigue made George’s life very dull, thus making his personality and actions dull as well. This made him all the more unmotivated. He always stayed at home all day, doing nothing but cleaning and the occasional radio and reading. His life was simply stated: boring.

Thus, George is a character who longs for respect and likeability, and would use any means to obtain it, even if it means deception and lies. This is his greatest strength because this desire for respect can be used as a drive that can push him and motivate him towards a better future for himself. However, this is also his greatest weakness as it also degrades his personality and prevents his character from reaching his ultimate goal of appearing likeable to people. He may impulsive, impatient, stubborn, and dishonest but he is just like another teenager in this vast world of personas. We all just want to be respected and loved, as this is a primal instinct also important to us. It brings true happiness, satisfaction and gives meaning to life, which would otherwise be empty, meaningless, and worthless. “Unhappy is the one who sees life as it is” a Chinese proverb which perfectly encompasses the person George is. George may require love or in this case, respect, because he wants to bring meaning back to his life. That is true change.

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