by Louis Sachar
Mr. Pendanski is a bit of a puzzle. Unlike Mr. Sir, who is totally comfortable pushing the boys around and letting them know he's in charge, Mr. P wants to give the impression that he and the boys are on the same team: "I want you to know, Stanley, that I respect you," he says right after Stanley arrives at camp (5.8). He leads the boys in a discussion of their futures, gives them pep talks about responsibility, and tells them that he's there to help them turn their lives around. Sounds like a pretty decent counselor, right?
Not so fast. The effect of all of this touchy-feely stuff is contradicted by Mr. P's treatment of Zero. For no obvious reason (other than Zero's vulnerability), Mr. Pendanski constantly subjects Zero to abusive comments and cruel teasing. Even when he's trying to be encouraging to the boys, he singles out Zero for ridicule: "You're all special in your own way," he says at one point. "You've all got something to offer… Even you, Zero. You're not completely worthless" (12.41). That wasn't necessary, now was it? Oh, and to top it off, Mr. Pendanski is the one who deletes Zero's files after he runs away; it seems like he's concerned only with protecting himself and the other administrators of the camp.
At the end of the book, of course, Mr. Pendanski's pretense of civility and caring gets dropped altogether when Zero and Stanley are discovered in the yellow-spotted lizard nest. When the Warden indicates that the plan is to wait for the boys to be bitten and die, all Mr. Pendanski does is say, "[at] least we got plenty of graves to choose from" (46.11). Yikes.