Unraveling the Mystery: What Do the Strawberries Symbolize in The Wednesday Wars?

When it comes to young adult literature, few authors can hold a candle to Gary D. Schmidt. The prolific writer has crafted numerous novels that capture the essence of adolescence in all its awkwardness and wonder. But one of his most beloved works is “The Wednesday Wars”. This poignant coming-of-age story centers around a seventh-grader named Holling Hoodhood as he navigates the turbulent waters of junior high school. But there’s one symbol in the story that’s particularly fascinating: strawberries.

Throughout “The Wednesday Wars”, Holling’s life is anything but sweet. He’s constantly bullied by his classmates, and his homeroom teacher may just be the bane of his existence. But amidst all the chaos and confusion, strawberries become a beacon of hope for young Holling. As the story progresses, it becomes clear that these juicy red fruits represent something much more than a tasty treat. They symbolize redemption, growth, and the fragility of life.

It’s fascinating to see how Schmidt incorporates these symbols throughout the text. At first, strawberries seem almost insignificant, nothing more than a small detail in Holling’s life. But as the story unfolds, they become a powerful force that helps him find his way in the world. Whether you’ve read “The Wednesday Wars” before or you’re experiencing it for the first time, it’s hard not to be captivated by the role that strawberries play in this unforgettable coming-of-age tale.

Importance of symbolism in literature

Symbolism is a key element in literature that provides deeper meanings and themes to a story. It is the use of objects, actions, or words to represent something else, often more abstract or complex. Through symbolism, authors are able to convey complex ideas and emotions in a more nuanced way, providing readers with a more engrossing and thought-provoking experience.

Symbols can be found in every genre of literature, from poetry to novels to plays. They often take the form of recurring motifs, such as colors, animals, or objects that hold a specific meaning or significance within the story. For example, in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel “The Great Gatsby,” the green light that Gatsby is obsessed with symbolizes his hopes and dreams for a future with Daisy Buchanan.

Symbolism can also be used to create a deeper connection between the reader and the story. By using objects or actions that readers can relate to in their own lives, authors can create an emotional resonance that makes the story more impactful. Symbols also allow readers to interpret a story in different ways, providing a level of ambiguity and complexity that can make the story more compelling and memorable.

What do the strawberries symbolize in “The Wednesday Wars”?

In “The Wednesday Wars” by Gary D. Schmidt, strawberries symbolize a number of different things throughout the story. In the beginning of the book, Holling’s sister Heather tells him that strawberries are a symbol of good luck. Later, when Holling has a bad dream and wakes up screaming, his father brings him a bowl of strawberries to calm him down.

As the story progresses, strawberries take on a more complex meaning. When Holling’s teacher Mrs. Baker gives him strawberries to take home to his family, it symbolizes her growing affection and concern for him. Later, when Holling brings strawberries to the Shakespeare rehearsals, they become a symbol of his commitment to the play and his desire to succeed.

Ultimately, the strawberries in “The Wednesday Wars” symbolize growth and change. Holling begins the book as a somewhat naive and sheltered child, but as he faces challenges and develops relationships with the people around him, he grows and matures. The strawberries serve as a reminder of this growth, and of the connections and experiences that have brought him to where he is.

Character analysis of Holling Hoodhood

Holling Hoodhood, the protagonist of “The Wednesday Wars,” is a seventh-grader at Camillo Junior High in Long Island during the late 1960s. He is an unusual character in many ways and can be analyzed from different angles. Let’s explore Holling’s personality traits and how he navigates the challenging events of the book.

  • Determined: Despite being stuck in Mrs. Baker’s classroom every Wednesday afternoon, Holling is determined to make the most of his situation. He takes advantage of this time to learn more about Shakespeare, which ultimately helps him to better understand himself and the world around him.
  • Creative: Holling has a creative mind, as evidenced by his ability to come up with unique ideas for his school projects. He creates an elaborate model of an Egyptian temple for a social studies assignment and designs an entire community center for a shop class project.
  • Compassionate: Holling shows compassion toward his friend Meryl Lee when she is upset about her father being deployed to Vietnam. He also shows empathy toward Mrs. Baker, acknowledging the difficult choices she has had to make in her life.

Holling’s growth throughout the book can be seen in his evolving relationship with Mrs. Baker. At the beginning of the year, he views her as a tyrannical figure who is out to get him. However, as he learns more about her life and her love for Shakespeare, he develops a greater appreciation for her and comes to see her as a mentor.

Additionally, strawberries play a significant symbolic role in the book, representing both Holling’s growth and the complexities of life. At the beginning of the book, Holling’s father forces him to work with him on a strawberry farm, which he hates. However, as the book progresses, Holling begins to see the beauty and complexities of the strawberry farm and the hard work and dedication it requires.

Symbolism of Strawberries in The Wednesday WarsMeaning
Strawberries with creamIndulgence, luxury
Strawberry farmHard work, dedication
Wild strawberriesBeauty, simplicity

Holling’s experience with strawberries shows his growth from a self-centered and resentful boy to a mature and understanding young man. Overall, Holling’s character is dynamic and multifaceted, making him a compelling and relatable protagonist.

Historical Context of the 1960s

The 1960s was a decade of significant social, political, and cultural change in the United States. The civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, and the counterculture movement were some of the significant events that became icons of this era. In the midst of these changes, many young men were drafted into the army, causing a wave of protests against the war.

In Gary D. Schmidt’s novel, “The Wednesday Wars,” the events of the 1960s serve as a backdrop for the coming-of-age story of the protagonist, Holling Hoodhood. The story takes place in 1967 and 1968, a turbulent period in American history.

What Do the Strawberries Symbolize in The Wednesday Wars?

  • The strawberries represent the innocence and sweetness of childhood. Holling’s teacher, Mrs. Baker, rewards him with fresh strawberries for completing his assignments, and he cherishes these moments of joy amidst the chaos of his life.
  • The strawberries also represent the fleeting nature of happiness. Holling becomes so obsessed with the strawberries that he begins to steal them, and eventually loses the trust of his teacher and his classmates. This symbolizes the idea that happiness is temporary, and one should not cling to it too tightly.
  • Lastly, the strawberries represent the contrast between the innocence of childhood and the harsh reality of the world. Holling learns about the Vietnam War and the injustices of the world beyond his little town, and the strawberries become a symbol of his lost naivete.

Holling Hoodhood’s Coming-of-Age Story

Holling Hoodhood’s story is a universal coming-of-age tale that resonates beyond the historical context of the 1960s. Holling learns important life lessons about trust, loyalty, and the importance of family and friends. Through his interactions with Mrs. Baker and his rough-and-tumble classmates, Holling begins to understand the complexities of the world and learn the importance of standing up for what is right.

The story also highlights the challenges of growing up during a period of social turmoil. Holling is faced with the possibility of being drafted into the army, and this fear looms over his life and shapes his relationships. However, he learns to find moments of joy and meaning amidst the chaos, symbolized by the strawberries.


The strawberries in “The Wednesday Wars” symbolize the innocence of childhood, the fleeting nature of happiness, and the contrast between childhood and the harsh realities of the world. The novel is set against the backdrop of the 1960s, a period of significant social and political change in the United States. Holling’s coming-of-age story illustrates the challenges and opportunities of growing up during a turbulent time in history.

Symbolism of StrawberriesInterpretation
Sweetness and Innocence of ChildhoodEnjoy the simple pleasures of life, but don’t cling to them too tightly
Fleeting Nature of HappinessDon’t take happiness for granted and appreciate it when it comes, but be prepared for it to leave
Contrast Between Childhood and Harsh Realities of the WorldChildhood may be innocent and carefree, but the world is a complex and difficult place

Overall, “The Wednesday Wars” is a powerful story that explores the challenges of growing up and finding meaning in turbulent times.

Significance of setting in The Wednesday Wars

Throughout the novel, The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt, the setting plays an integral role in the development of the plot, characters, and symbolism. The novel is set in the 1960s during the Vietnam War, and the small town of suburban New York is an essential part of the story. The setting provides a contrast between the horrors of the war and the peaceful lives of the characters in the novel. The government of the United States had recently passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution enabling the escalation of the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War, which impacted the lives of the characters. In the novel, the setting is used subtly to symbolize emotions and experiences, with the strawberries being a prominent example.

What do the strawberries symbolize in The Wednesday Wars?

  • The strawberries are used as a symbol for hope, growth, and healing. Mrs. Baker, the protagonist’s teacher, assigns Holling Hoodhood, the protagonist, to harvest strawberries in one of their studies. It is not just a mere act, but a symbol of the pain Mrs. Baker is undergoing and hopes to overcome her pain by growing something.
  • The strawberries are also symbolic of how slowly growth can take place, as it takes an entire summer for the fruit to ripen, and it takes time for Mrs. Baker to come to terms and resolve her issues.
  • The strawberries are also symbolic of redemption. When Holling is made fun of, he buys strawberries from Meryl Lee Kowalski to make amends and get on her good side. Through this action, he is trying to redeem himself and show that he is not as bad as people think he is.

The significance of the number four in The Wednesday Wars

The number four has a significant presence in The Wednesday Wars, and it is evident from the start of the book when Holling describes the four directions. Here are some instances where the number four is portrayed:

The Shakespeare playsHolling is forced to read and study four of Shakespeare’s plays. He initially dislikes the plays, but by the end of the book, he has grown to appreciate them.
The four students that represent the four major racial and cultural groupsThe four students that attend Holling’s school represent four major racial and cultural groups (Jewish, Chinese, African American, and Korean). The four students are used to symbolize the diversity that exists in the United States.
The four directionsAt the start of the novel, Holling describes the four directions – north, south, east, and west. The significance of this is that the novella transcends time and location, and emphasizes that its themes are universal and can exist anywhere at any time.

The number four is significant not just in the novel but beyond it. Four elements, four corners of the world, four seasons of the year are a few basic examples of what the numeral connotes.


The Wednesday Wars is a novel that embodies poignant themes. The setting of suburban New York, the strawberries, the character redemption arcs, and the number four are some of the elements that mold the story and contribute remarkably to its overarching themes. It is a must-read for anyone on a journey of self-discovery and growth.

Themes of Adolescence and Coming of Age

Adolescence and coming of age are key themes in many books, and “The Wednesday Wars” by Gary D. Schmidt is no exception. The novel explores the struggles that young people face as they move from childhood into adulthood, and it does so with humor, empathy, and sensitivity.

One of the key symbols in the book is the strawberry, which represents both the joys and challenges of growing up. Here are five ways that the strawberry symbolizes adolescence and coming of age in “The Wednesday Wars”:

  • The strawberry is ripe with possibility: Like the strawberry, adolescence is a time of great potential and possibility. Young people are just beginning to discover their strengths and interests, and they have the whole world ahead of them. The strawberry symbolizes this sense of endless opportunity, and the excitement that comes with it.
  • The strawberry has a bittersweet flavor: Just like adolescence, the strawberry can be both sweet and bitter at the same time. As young people grow up, they start to encounter challenges and disappointments, and they begin to understand the complexities of the world. The strawberry represents this mix of joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain.
  • The strawberry is fragile: Adolescence is a vulnerable time, when young people are still figuring out who they are and where they fit in. The strawberry is delicate and easily bruised, just like the emotions of young people. One misstep can leave a lasting mark, and it takes time and care to heal.
  • The strawberry is a sign of affection: In the book, the character Mrs. Baker gives Holling a fresh strawberry every Wednesday as a sign of her affection and care. The strawberry becomes a symbol of their relationship, which grows and changes over the course of the book. Through this simple act of kindness, Mrs. Baker teaches Holling about love, empathy, and the importance of human connection.
  • The strawberry is a reminder of the passage of time: As the school year progresses, the strawberries in the Baker’s garden grow and ripen, marking the passing of time. The students in the book are also growing and changing, and the strawberries are a tangible reminder of the fleeting nature of youth. The strawberry symbolizes the urgency of the present moment, and the importance of cherishing each day.

Overall, the strawberry is a powerful symbol of adolescence and coming of age in “The Wednesday Wars”. Through this humble fruit, the author captures the complexities and challenges of growing up, and the joys and triumphs that come with it.

Role of Shakespeare in the Novel

William Shakespeare plays a significant role in the novel “The Wednesday Wars” by Gary D. Schmidt. The protagonist, Holling Hoodhood, is forced by his teacher, Mrs. Baker, to read Shakespeare’s plays every Wednesday. This transforms Holling’s character from being a disinterested and apathetic student to someone who begins to appreciate and understand the complexity of life.

As Holling reads the plays, he begins to identify with the characters, empathizing with their joys, sorrows, and struggles. He starts to see parallels between his own life and Shakespeare’s plays, particularly in the themes of betrayal, forgiveness, and redemption.

Furthermore, Shakespeare’s language and literary techniques provide insights into the world, challenging Holling’s stereotypes and biases. For instance, the language used in “Romeo and Juliet” helps Holling to view his sister’s religion differently and understand the concept of love.

  • Shakespeare’s plays also serve as a means of escape for Holling. In a turbulent time in America’s history – the Vietnam War – Holling experiences fear and uncertainty about the future. Reading the plays helps him forget his problems and immerse himself in another world where he can feel a sense of control.
  • Moreover, the novelty of reading Shakespeare’s works in a public school, when most students would consider it boring or irrelevant, creates a bond between Holling and Mrs. Baker, his teacher. The two begin to relate on a personal level, with Holling learning more about Mrs. Baker’s life and Mrs. Baker becoming more invested in Holling’s success.
  • Finally, Shakespeare’s works serve as a catalyst for Holling’s personal growth. He goes from being a follower to becoming a leader, standing up to his father and advocating for his sister’s religious freedom. The complexity of Shakespeare’s characters and themes help Holling mature, gaining a more profound understanding of himself and the world around him.

In conclusion, Shakespeare’s plays serve as an essential component in “The Wednesday Wars.” They enable Holling to internalize the complexities of life and grow into a more empathetic, compassionate, and developed young adult.

Role of Shakespeare in “The Wednesday Wars”Impact on Holling
Forced to read Shakespeare’s plays by Mrs. BakerTransformation from disinterested student to someone who appreciates literature
Identifies with the characters and themes of betrayal, forgiveness, and redemptionDevelops empathy and understanding for others
Escapes from the turbulence of the Vietnam WarFind solace in another world, gains a sense of control over his life
Creates a bond between Holling and Mrs. BakerRelates on a personal level, Mrs. Baker becomes invested in Holling’s success
Catalyst for Holling’s personal growthBecomes a leader, stands up to his father, matures and develops empathy, and a deeper understanding of himself and the world around him

Overall, Shakespeare’s plays serve as a vehicle through which Holling develops into a more introspective, empathetic, and insightful individual.

Analysis of Mrs. Baker’s Character Development

In the novel “The Wednesday Wars”, strawberries are used as a symbol for growth and change, particularly in the character development of Mrs. Baker, the protagonist’s teacher. The significance of strawberries is showcased throughout the novel, as they serve as a catalyst for Mrs. Baker’s personal growth.

  • At the beginning of the novel, Mrs. Baker is distant and unapproachable towards the main character, Holling. Her stern demeanor and strict teaching methods are a constant source of fear for Holling. However, as the novel progresses, the symbolism of strawberries becomes more prominent.
  • During a class project, Mrs. Baker assigns the task of growing strawberries to Holling and his classmates. Through this project, Mrs. Baker is able to connect with her students on a deeper level, showing a more caring side to her personality.
  • As the strawberry plants begin to flourish under the care of the students, Mrs. Baker’s own personal growth becomes evident. She becomes more open and vulnerable towards her students, allowing them to see her human side.

The character development of Mrs. Baker ultimately reaches a climactic moment during the school play, in which Holling plays the role of Ariel. In this scene, Ariel maintains that strawberries are a symbol for love. Mrs. Baker, who is present at the play, is visibly moved by the performance and the symbolism of the strawberries. This moment signifies a shift in Mrs. Baker’s character, as she is finally able to let her guard down and connect with her students on a deeper level.

It is through the symbolism of strawberries that Mrs. Baker is able to experience personal growth and development. The importance of this symbolism is not lost on the reader, as it is a testament to the transformative power of growth and change.

The following table highlights the progression of Mrs. Baker’s character development throughout the novel:

Beginning of the NovelClassroom ProjectSchool Play
Distant and UnapproachableConnects with StudentsOpen and Vulnerable
Stern and StrictCaring and InvolvedEmotionally Moved

The progression depicted in this table is not just specific to Mrs. Baker’s character development, but serves as a reflection of the transformative power of personal growth and change. The symbolism of strawberries reinforces this idea, undoubtedly leaving a lasting impression on readers long after the novel concludes.

Comparison of Mrs. Baker and Holling’s father as authority figures

Throughout the novel, Holling is under the influence of two extremely different authority figures: his teacher, Mrs. Baker, and his father. While both characters possess a level of authority over Holling, their approaches to leadership are vastly different.

  • Mrs. Baker is portrayed as a strict but fair teacher who pushes her students to their full potential. She is tough on Holling but ultimately wants the best for him.
  • Holling’s father, on the other hand, is a cold and distant figure who often puts work before his family. He is more interested in Holling taking over his business than in his son’s personal growth.
  • Mrs. Baker is a nurturing figure who takes an active interest in Holling’s life outside of school, while Holling’s father is absent and disinterested.

The contrasting personalities of Mrs. Baker and Holling’s father represent the different approaches to leadership. Mrs. Baker represents the compassionate and nurturing leader who takes the time to understand her students’ strengths and weaknesses. Holling’s father, on the other hand, represents the traditional authoritarian leader who demands obedience and conformity from those he leads.

Holling’s experience with both authority figures shows that while both types of leadership have their advantages, a nurturing leadership approach is ultimately more effective in helping individuals reach their full potential.

Mrs. BakerHolling’s Father
Strict but fair teacherCold and distant figure
Nurturing figure who takes an active interest in Holling’s lifeAbsent and disinterested in Holling’s personal growth
Compassionate and understandingTraditional authoritarian leader who demands obedience

Overall, the comparison between Mrs. Baker and Holling’s father as authority figures highlights the importance of nurturing and compassionate leadership in helping individuals reach their full potential.

Symbolism of other recurring motifs in the novel

Besides strawberries, there are several other recurring motifs in the novel, each carrying a symbolic meaning:

  • Baseball: Baseball symbolizes teamwork, dedication, and perseverance. Mr. Hoodhood uses the game to teach his son Holling valuable life lessons.
  • Shakespeare: Shakespeare represents the power of literature and the importance of understanding and appreciating it. Holling learns to love and understand Shakespeare, which enriches his life and helps him understand the world around him.
  • Rats: Rats represent fear and danger. Holling must face his fear of rats when he is stuck in the school basement with them.
  • The number 9: The number 9 appears several times throughout the novel and represents the idea of completion. For example, Holling’s school year lasts nine months, there are nine members in the Shakespeare club, and Holling’s father completes the final nine holes of his golf course project.

The symbolism of the number 9

The number 9 appears frequently in the novel and carries a symbolic meaning of completion. This theme is introduced early on when Holling’s school year is described as lasting nine months. The number nine also appears in other aspects of the story, such as the nine members of the Shakespeare club and the nine holes of the golf course that Holling’s father is trying to complete.

The number 9 is often associated with endings and completion because it is the highest single-digit number. In addition, 9 is the result when you add any two numbers together and reduce them to their basic digits. For example, 5 + 4 = 9. This reinforces the idea of completion and finality.

Throughout the novel, the number 9 serves as a reminder that all things must come to an end. Holling’s school year is a finite amount of time, as is his time with his teacher Mrs. Baker and with his Shakespeare club. However, the number 9 also represents the fulfilling of goals and achievements. When Holling’s father completes the final nine holes of his golf course project, it is a satisfying accomplishment and signifies the completion of a task.

Instances of the number 9 in The Wednesday Wars:Symbolic meaning:
Holling’s school year lasts nine monthsThe school year represents a finite amount of time that must come to an end
The Shakespeare club has nine membersThe number 9 emphasizes the completion and harmony of the group
Holling’s father is trying to complete the final nine holes of his golf course projectThe number 9 represents the successful completion of a goal

The recurring motif of the number 9 reinforces the theme of completion and the idea that everything has a finite lifespan. However, it also celebrates the satisfaction and fulfillment that comes from achieving goals and completing tasks.

Importance of Family Relationships in “The Wednesday Wars”

The coming-of-age novel, “The Wednesday Wars” by Gary D. Schmidt, explores important themes such as family, friendship, and prejudice. The main character, Holling Hoodhood, learns several valuable lessons throughout the story, including the significance of family relationships.

Holling’s relationship with his family is an integral part of the novel. The following are some of the ways that family relationships are highlighted in the story:

  • Tension with father: Holling’s relationship with his father, who is strict and demanding, is strained. His father is a wealthy architect who places a lot of pressure on Holling to succeed academically and in sports. Holling is often left feeling unappreciated and neglected due to his father’s preoccupation with work.
  • Supportive mother: Holling’s mother, on the other hand, is a source of comfort and support. She empathizes with Holling’s struggles and listens to him when he needs someone to talk to. She is also the person who encourages Holling to pursue his passion for theater, despite his father’s disapproval.
  • Grandfather’s influence: Holling’s grandfather is a retired baker who has a significant impact on his grandson. He is a kind, wise, and patient man who teaches Holling important life lessons, such as the importance of hard work and perseverance.

Overall, the family relationships in “The Wednesday Wars” serve to emphasize the importance of communication, understanding, and support within a family. While the story portrays a dysfunctional family dynamic in the Hoodhood household, it also highlights the positive effects of having a supportive family member, such as Holling’s mother and grandfather.

The following table summarizes the different family dynamics present in the story:

Family memberRelationship with Holling
FatherTense and demanding
MotherSupportive and comforting
GrandfatherWise and patient

Through the lens of Holling’s experiences, “The Wednesday Wars” shows us that family relationships can have a profound impact on our lives, shaping who we are and who we become.

FAQs: What Do the Strawberries Symbolize in The Wednesday Wars?

1. Why are strawberries important in The Wednesday Wars?

Strawberries serve as a recurring symbol of friendship, forgiveness, and hope in The Wednesday Wars. They are used to represent the growth of relationships and the healing of old wounds.

2. What is the significance of the strawberries in Holling’s relationship with Mrs. Baker?

The strawberries represent a key turning point in Holling’s relationship with Mrs. Baker. When he brings her a freshly picked basket of strawberries, it marks a moment of genuine connection between them and a growing sense of trust.

3. How do the strawberries relate to the broader themes of the novel?

The strawberries represent the idea that even the smallest acts of kindness can have a significant impact on people’s lives. They underscore the novel’s themes of empathy, understanding, and the power of human connection.

4. What do the strawberries symbolize in the context of the Vietnam War?

The strawberries serve as a reminder of the innocence and joy that can be found in everyday life even during times of conflict and turmoil. They symbolize the importance of holding onto hope and optimism even in the face of hardship.

5. How do the strawberries help Holling overcome his own personal struggles?

For Holling, the act of growing and picking strawberries becomes a way of finding purpose and meaning in his life. The strawberries help him to feel connected to others and to the world around him, ultimately giving him the strength to overcome his own fears and insecurities.

6. How do the strawberries represent the idea of growth and change?

The strawberries serve as a metaphor for the process of growth and change that Holling and the other characters in the novel undergo. They start as small, unassuming plants but with care and nurturing, they blossom and bear fruit, just as the characters in the novel grow and change over time.

7. What is the overall message that the strawberries convey in The Wednesday Wars?

The strawberries represent the idea that even in difficult times, there is always the potential for growth, connection, and healing. They remind us of the power of small acts of kindness and the importance of finding joy and meaning in everyday life.

Closing Thoughts: Thanks for Joining Us Today!

We hope that this article has helped you to better understand the symbolism of the strawberries in The Wednesday Wars. Through this simple fruit, the novel conveys powerful messages about the human experience and the importance of empathy, kindness, and hope. Thanks for reading, and please visit us again soon for more engaging articles and content!