Walter Dean Myers

Game

Othello the General and Drew the Baller

In Game, Walter Dean Myers alludes frequently to Drew’s English class and the story of Othello. The first allusion comes in the first chapter when Drew brings up a summary of the story:

“Okay, so Othello’s a play about this brother who was a general but was married to a white chick. The brother was uptight and worried that the chick was stepping out on him, and this guy he trusted, Iago, started whispering in his ear about what was going on behind his back. I think Iago didn’t like black people” (Myers 11).

Through these allusions, Drew seems to find a parallelism between his life and that of Othello. Myers attempts to show that the problems of the past are the exact same as those hundreds of years later, with slight variation of course. Drew’s senior basketball season seems to progress the same way as the life of Othello. Drew fancies himself as the leader of the troops when he’s on the court. As the best player atBaldwinAcademy, he is similar to the general figure of Othello. His “chick” is his coach, House. Midway through the season, a new guy on the team arrives- a white guy. He feels that House is now favoring the new guy on the team and abandoning the relationship he once had with his star player, Drew. Myers’ connection between the two develops with the character of Fletch, the assistant coach. Fletch is the whispering voice in Drew’s ear that keeps him on the lookout for Tomas, the new, white baller.

In Myers’ next reference to Othello, Drew thinks of how his teacher told him that he cannot assume Othello was black. Drew ponders,

“The way I figured it, Shakespeare wouldn’t have put him in the play if being black wasn’t an issue. And why was Iago messing with him if it didn’t have anything to do with race? I hadn’t read the whole play yet, but I did remember Othello telling the chick about his life. Maybe that’s what made Iago mad. He didn’t have anything to run down about who he was and resented my man Othello” (50).

Drew had just come back from an excursion to Tomas’s home and learned about his family life. Because of the floods inPrague, Tomas had nothing, especially the chick and infamy. Drew had the awesome coach and was a well known baller around the area. Iago just wanted to rise to the position of Othello, and the same went for Tomas. For Tomas to reach Drew’s status, he had to take it all away from him. Myers develops these characters so similar situations are formed between the two stories. He wants the antagonist in each to have the same desire, and each of the protagonists to have an equivalent struggle, likewise.

On pages 65 and 66 Myers develops the struggle in more detail between Drew and Tomas. Drew’s most recent interpretation of Othello was that “Iago didn’t like the brother being a big-time general and he didn’t like him getting over with a big-time white chick, either. And since he was white like everybody else around at the time, he had the power to mess with Othello.” In application to Drew’s own life, Myers attempts to make everyone aware at this point that Tomas is envious of Drew and cannot stand him. Drew’s teacher responds to Drew’s interpretation during class saying, “Is it really the woman? Or the celebrity that Othello’s achieved? We do know that Iago hoped for high office.” This inquiry is able to bring Drew into perspective. Tomas doesn’t want the chick, Coach House, he wants the praise that Drew is attaining. Tomas wants to be the new star. Like in all times, there is competition to succeed. Sometimes rivalries can be formed among friends. When a common goal is created, in the boys’ case it is the NBA and in Othello and Iago’s it is the power of high position, strife will erupt and friendship must be dismantled because only one can succeed.

The next reference to Othello comes after a disappointing loss to a not so tough school on the courts. Drew is frustrated that the coach will not play him so that the white kid can shine in the spot light. This was easily the reason for the loss. Othello was a Moor living in a white man’s world. He had position but they had all the power over him and did not respect him whatsoever. From his reading, Drew was able to see how Othello could handle such a difficult situation and decided he would have to make dew with his own. The society is favoring the white man again and Drew doesn’t have the power to play.
Here, Myers is able to further the connection in plot development to his own story. The burdens that Drew is experiencing are similar to those of Othello, and Drew looks to Othello almost as an idol. Drew uses his story to learn what he must do next to survive in the real world.

Later on Drew must use the techniques of his role model Othello once again. The night before, Tomas was choking and the game would have been lost, so Drew had to take the ball rock from him take the game winning shot. Conflict erupted, Tomas got in Drew’s face, and Drew’s best friend Ruffy had to throw Tomas to the ground. The next day in school everyone in school was talking about it and Tomas constantly shot glares at Drew. Drew decided, “… I stayed away from it. I was trying to be cool. Like my man Othello, I was trying to be bigger than the small stuff” (144). The references to Othello not only carry along the plot of the novel, but use the lessons learned from it to enhance Drew’s life. In seeing a similar situation, Myers uses Othello not just as a point to compare Drew’s life, but also as a way to impact it.

The day of the biggest game of his life, Drew is sitting in English class.

“The boys thought Othello would have killed Iago for lying on his woman. ‘Or at least for putting his business in the street,’ one dude said… I knew it was wrong to take Othello’s side, but I could see where the brother was coming from. If the only thing he had going on was his rep and his woman, and all of a sudden it looked like she was running off and kicking his rep in the dust along the way, he would have to feel like he wanted to go to 187. It was wrong but in a way I could see it. ‘So what you’re saying Mr. Lawson’- Miss Tomita had a hand on her bony little hip-‘is that you would throw away your whole life because of what you thought was going on?’”

A realization struck Drew that instant and he learned what his priorities had to be. He wanted the NBA- only way there was to go to a D1 college, and the only way there was to win this game and make it to the state playoffs. Drew had to work with Tomas to get what he wanted. Maybe Tomas wasn’t trying to take his spot and mess him over. The cooperative effort would bring success to both their dreams. Amends needed to be made so that Drew could do what was best for him and the team. He was so quick to assume everything he thought was right, and that almost cost him his dream.

Myers uses the story of Othello as a guide for Drew’s senior season. The stories of the past can be significant in all time periods. Here, Othello can be used as a tool for a struggling teenager to achieve what he needs in life. He uses the story so that Drew may find the real depths of his game, and himself. The parallel connections from Othello develop the character of Drew as the character of Othello is used as a guide and model of how Drew should think of the predicaments he is in and how to deal with them.

(B.D 2011)

Dope Sick

Was Kelly Death or was he an Angel?

In Walter Dean Myers’ Dope Sick, suspected criminal Lil J, when fleeing from the police, runs into an abandoned crack house and encounters a spooky, mysterious persona. This man who identifies himself as Kelly seems to know it all and causes Lil J to think about the troubles of his life. His questioning of Lil J causes him to have an epiphany and reconsider all the things that he has the power to change about how he lives. Kelly constantly brings Lil J back into the past so he can get a recollection of all that has been screwing up his life so Lil J can realize a change is necessary. But who is the mystery Samaritan?

Some of the time, Death isn’t always there just to collect the dead soul. In many accounts, he has been one to aid the recently deceased into changing their life and steering them on the right path. Lil J is near death at the moment, because if he is caught and convicted he will be serving life in prison. If he doesn’t want to deal with the torture of prison, he might just commit suicide and save himself the trouble. However, Kelly could also be an angel sent to turn Lil J’s life around. Angels have sometimes been known to come down and save those in desperate need of help. If there was one kid who didn’t have one good thing going on for him, it was Lil J. The angel could possibly be intervening in worldly affairs to turn his life around.

Lil J’s life has seriously gone awry. He is involved with drugs, he has no job, he lives in a crummy apartment, his mother pops pills and is an alcoholic, he can’t see his own girlfriend or son, and on top of everything, he is wanted for shooting a police officer and is currently on the run. Kelly, upon meeting Lil J wants to get to the bottom of it all. Kelly recurringly asks, “If you could take back one thing you did, what would it be?” He hopes to change Lil J’s perspective of his life with this. He wants Lil J to get a second chance and make everything better.

This would most likely be assumed to be the task of an angel. An angel would interfere in the most severe of circumstances and bring those in dire need back on the correct path. Nevertheless, Kelly doesn’t really give off the angelic vibe. Kelly appears to be another crackhead. He’s homeless, stinky, and hiding out in an abandoned apartment building. In addition to his appearance, he has a very hardcore attitude. Kelly always criticizes Lil J, talks back to him, and gives off a sense of his superiority. Lil J comes to believe that a man with nothing is lecturing him and thinks he knows best. Kelly persists on being critical, impatient, and ticking off Lil J instead of being sympathetic toward the situation, like a typical angel.

Death could also be a likely candidate for Kelly’s true self still. His pessimistic attitude and sarcasm are characteristic of one such as Death who doesn’t absolutely care whether or not Lil J changes but is just trying to help. But is Kelly too kind and generous to be death. Kelly gives off the impression of having deep concern for Lil J’s well-being. Kelly always asks how the arm Lil J got shot in is feeling, offers him drinks, gives him advice on how to avoid the cops, and even offers to go out and purchase food for him- not characteristic of the stereotypical dark figure. The shady environment however seems like a place where encountering Death is most likely though. The nonchalant manner in which Kelly carries himself adds to the likeliness of him being Death as well.

However changing Lil J and giving off a second chance seems more representative of the angel. Death is more well known for scaring a man straight and leaving the man with an epiphany so he may atone for wrongdoings in the past. Dope Sick doesn’t really end with Lil J getting an epiphany and fixing anything in the past. Kelly specifically says that all he has done cannot be changed. Nonetheless, turning his life around can be a viable outcome from the encounter. The recollections displayed to Lil J could make him want to get a job, quit dope, sit down with his mom about their problems, and alter other aspects of his inconvenient lifestyle.

What most potently points to Kelly’s presence being that of an angel is how Kelly leaves Lil J. Kelly in a way saves his life. He goes down the stairs of the building, and with the gun used to shoot the police officer in hand, confronts the S.W.A.T. team. Kelly winds up getting shot and carted away by ambulance. He then takes responsibility for the shooting and leaves Lil J a free man. This heroic exit seems most characteristic of an angel. The also not only left promptly, but left Lil J to make the right decisions for himself. He did not change everything wrong with Lil J’s life, but influenced him to modify the troubling aspects of it. Kelly did not fix the problems, but steered Lil J back on the right path, like a descendant of God traditionally would.

(B.D. 2011)