Then Again, Maybe I Won't
infobox Book |
name = Then Again, Maybe I Won't
language = English
media_type = Print (
pages = 176 pp
isbn = ISBN 0-87888-035-6
"Then Again, Maybe I Won't" is a 1971 young adult novel written by
Judy Blume. Intended for pre-teens and teenagers, the novel deals with puberty from a male perspective as well as the other trials of growing up. Judy Blume claimed that she was inspired to write the story following the success of her preceding novel " Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.". Given her earlier novel was about a girl entering puberty making the transition to womanhood, she decided to write one about a boy going through puberty and making a transition to manhood.
Tony Miglione and his working-class family lives in
Jersey City, New Jersey. When his older brother Ralph and his wife announce they are having a baby but lack money to care for the child, Tony's parents offer to help. Tony's father, an electrician who tries his hand at inventing in his spare time, is inspired to invent wireless electrical cartridges, which he then patents and sells the patent to a large company called J.W. Fullerbach Electronics. Mr. Miglione is then made a plant managerfor a Fullerbach factory which will manufacture the electrical cartridges. This new job brings to the Miglione family a large increase in wealth and a move from Jersey City to Rosemont, New York, a fictitious affluent Long Islandtown where Tony has to deal with sudden changes coinciding with his growing into adolescence—his mother is becoming a social climbing phony, his brother quits teaching and ends up going into the family business, and his grandmother (unable to speak since the removal of her larynx) isn't permitted to cook anymore. Add to this, along with the emotional upheaval that comes with puberty(and the fact that his new friend has a tendency to shoplift), and you have enough to put young Tony into psychotherapy. Tony also is a secret Peeping Tom, watching the neighbor's daughter undress from his bedroom window.
While this novel is similar to the puberty aspects of "
Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.", it differs mainly in the secondary themes. While Margaret struggled with her issues of religionand being raised in an interfaith family, Tony Miglione struggles with the issues of his family social climbing and to a lesser extent, American society. A similarity to both stories, aside from the physical maturity of both characters, is that Tony develops a crush on the eldest daughter of his next door neighbors, just as Margaret had feelings for the eldest son of her next door neighbors. However, Tony also has to deal with the fact that she is three years older than he is, and that if such a crush was indeed to get serious the age difference would be uncommon among guys he knows. Both stories also dealt with moving from an urban area to the suburbs, but the reason behind the move for Tony's family is his father's success with his invention and desire to move to a wealthier community.
Themes dealt with include the effects on Tony of losing the middle-class life he had been used to in his
Italian-Americanneighborhood in Jersey City, and being ill at ease in his new upper classcommunity. In addition, Tony's grandmother has been marginalized, as she loved to cook for the family in Jersey City and was told that this would be inappropriate in their new home. She confines herself to her room after the Migliones hire Maxine, a maid who takes advantage of the family's inexperience with their new lifestyle and essentially directs the household to her wants instead of taking orders from the family.
The timeframe of this story is evidently the late
1960sor early 1970s, as Tony's eldest brother, Vinnie, has been killed in action in the Vietnam War. Other themes touched upon are how Tony's family seems to be knowingly and willingly distancing themselves from their Italian heritage as not many Italian-Americans live in Rosemont (evidence of this is shown when Tony's mother allows herself to be called "Carol" by Mrs. Hoober instead of Carmella, her true name). Another theme is how Tony's family is " keeping up with the Joneses" by emulating their next door neighbors, the Hoobers (although Tony's mother is clearly more concerned with social image than his father). Mr. Hoober is vice president of a pharmaceutical company and is apparently extremely well compensated, which gives his wife the chance to spend her days playing golfand socializing. The Hoobers are representative of the "high-powered American family", and seem to believe the "American way" is about money, affluent living, social status and not much else. As a result, they do not seem to give much attention to the troublemaking son Joel, who has the idea he can get away with anything as nobody is watching over him or enforcing discipline.
Besides dealing with the move and his feelings about Lisa Hoober, Tony also has to deal with anxiety attacks, which mainly strike when Joel commits a misdeed and Tony cannot tell anyone about it. Joel's shoplifting is a major catalyst for these attacks, and one is so great it sends Tony into a state of shock and results in his immediate hospitalization. Tony also has lost respect for his older brother Ralph, who in Jersey City had been known among his friends as "The Wizard of Seventh Grade Social Studies," a popular junior high school teacher. Tony has lost respect for Ralph when he learns that Ralph will be giving up teaching to go into his father's business. He does not believe Ralph is scientifically oriented, as his deceased brother Vinnie was, and is giving up his true calling to follow the same social climbing path as his parents. Ralph rationalizes his job change in that he wishes to provide for his daughter and future children, but Tony thinks to himself it does not take that much money to raise a child, and it could be a potential to spoil children, as he has seen firsthand with Joel's lack of parental oversight and the idea the Hoobers are doing their jobs solely by providing a fancy home life for him.
The penultimate chapter in the book deals with the fact that "what goes around comes around" in regards to Joel's immoral actions. Tony and Joel are at a
sporting goodsstore where the employees successfully catch Joel shoplifting golf balls and Tony refuses to aid Joel in lying, leaving him to sink in the mire of the results of his bad behavior. The store's owner suggests to Tony that although he suspects that Tony did not shoplift with Joel, he would stop being friends with Joel, which could be a reference to a saying of George Washingtonthat "it is better to be a loner than to keep friendships with men of bad moral character." Tony anticipates that his parents will learn for themselves of Joel's true nature when they read tomorrow's newspaper and see Joel will be remanded to the juvenile facility, but instead the story takes another tack when the owner of the sporting goods store declines to press chargesagainst Joel for shoplifting. Mr. Hoober decides to enlist Joel in a military academy, which will undoubtedly deprive Joel of his "I will do what I want when I want" attitude and his pampered lifestyle at the Hoober home, but it will also keep him away from home for long periods of time, once again reiterating Mr. Hoober's tendency to shove his family problems aside so he can focus on work and his golf games.
In the end, Tony finds a certain amount of peace as he accepts his life with help of his counsellor and also resolves to put away his binoculars to stop his voyeurism, but also notes wryly, "Then again, maybe I won't."
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