Old School is a fascinating novel by Tobias Wolff which has gained many positive reviews during a relatively short period of time. The book depicts an elite boarding school, which is famous for its ambitious students who attempt to be outstanding writers. Annually, this school hosts some celebrated writers, and the senior students have a possibility to compete for a private audience by creating some kind of an intriguing poem or story.
It is easy to notice that all students, teachers and even the dean in this school are obsessed with literature, and they greatly appreciate outstanding writers who have managed to compose well known masterpieces. At the same time, everyone in this school who has succeeded in literature or is related to it in certain respect deserves honor and admiration. These special privileges of being honored and highly respected somewhat seduced the school dean, Archibald Makepeace. The dean invented a story that he had been a friend of Hemingway’s during the time of World War I and was known to have served as the model for Jake’s fishing buddy Bill in The Sun Also Rises, and that greatly influenced his future career and people’s attitude towards him. This character is one of the most memorable and convincing central characters, who develops the main theme of the book – “when the border between truth and lies collides”. The author revealed the dean’s biggest secret in a very interesting and ironic way and, at the same time, emphasizes that the pretense is the essential companion to truth. Aforesaid writer, the “dear friend” of Makepeace, was the last invited novelist who greatly contributed to revealing the truth and the main problems of Tobias Wolff’s novel. When the dean found out about the future arrival of Hemingway, he decided to resign. Makepeace is ashamed and mournful, because the vicious lie, which was made an undeniable part of his life, is now disclosed. The author’s irony consists in the fact that Hemingway has never arrived, and there was no reason for dean’s confession and further resignation.
I suppose, Makepeace made a good decision when he decided to resign. In my opinion, it was impossible for such a “regal but benign” person to remain in a community where he was respected no more. The entire life, Archibald was telling fibs about friendship with Hemingway and even started to believe in it. The admiration of colleagues and friends was extremely important for him, and it greatly influenced his character. He became remote and self-confident, felt unique and important. After the reveling of the secret, Makepeace appeared on the edge of personal crisis of integrity. He feels useless and spiritually bankrupt, because he was mostly known by being a friend of the famous writer. Moreover, the narrator, who was a senior student and spent at school only “five or six weeks, no more”, says,” “I hadn’t met Dean Makepeace yet, but I knew who he was: he was Ernest Hemingway’s friend.”
Doubtless, the admitting of the truth and following resignation were essential to stop dean’s pang of conscience, but, I believe that before leaving he should explain himself, beg for pardon and understanding. I am sure that even the lame excuse is still an excuse. It shows that one is ashamed and sorry. In addition, the other people will begin to treat you better and even forgive you, because it is hard to remain impeccable and even harder to admit your mistakes. I think that this contrasting character could not remain in his previous position at school, but he should not neglect the possibility to restore relations with teachers and students even though he will not work there any longer.