by Louis Sachar
X-Ray is the leader of the pack in D Tent. He's the smallest boy in the group (other than Zero), but he's still the big man on campus. One of his most important roles? To give nicknames to each of the new arrivals, defining who they are while they're at the camp, and how others will see them. It's a pretty big deal, if you ask us.
For the Greater Good
Sometimes this little guy is good person to have in charge. He often uses his power to protect the kids under him and to make things run more smoothly. For example, when Stanley inadvertently irritates a boy from another tent on his first day of digging, X-Ray is quick to come to his defense. And we'll throw another one at you for good measure: when the fight between Zigzag and Zero draws the attention of the Warden and the counselors, X-Ray does his best to downplay what happened:
"They just got a little hot, that's all," said X-Ray. "You know how it is. In the sun all day. People get hot, right? But everything's cool now."
"I see," the Warden said. She turned to Zigzag. "What's the matter? Didn't you get a puppy for your birthday?"
"Zig's just a little hot," said X-Ray. "Out in the sun all day. You know how it is. The blood starts to boil." (30.89-91)
Although his clever strategy doesn't work in this case, X-Ray clearly wants to keep the boys off the Warden's radar so they won't get in trouble. When the group is threatened from outside, X-Ray does his best to protect everyone and smooth things over.
For the Greater Bad
But it's not all sunshine and rainbows with Zigzag. This kid has no trouble taking advantage of his position of power to exploit the boys he leads and take things to which he has no right. When Stanley proves his loyalty by turning over the gold tube he finds, X-Ray rewards him by placing him in line in front of Zero. Great for Stanley, not so great for Zero.
Like our favorite Soprano, X-Ray rewards loyalty from his followers, knowing that this will inspire even more loyalty. But he doesn't always think about the little guys – or anyone else at all. Ultimately, he's not interested in being a fair or just leader, but only in using his power to get the most that he can out of his situation.
Just to help prove our point: at the end of the book, when Stanley and Zero return to camp, X-Ray is the only one of the boys from D Tent who doesn't speak to them or greet them in any way. How's that for selfish?