Study Guide

Frank Raymond in Alligator Bayou

By Donna Jo Napoli

Frank Raymond

Frank Raymond is a teenaged artist from Iowa, and though he doesn't live in the same house as Calo, in many ways he's as close to the boy as any of his adopted uncles are. Just a teen himself, he still manages to teach Calo a whole lot, and in the end, he even saves our main man's life.

History Lessons

Frank is supposed to be teaching English, along with some other things, to Calo, but we never really see him teach directly. Instead Fran and Calo spend their time together talking, with Frank answering questions Calo has about life in Tallulah and words he doesn't understand. It's like Frank is Calo's very own personal Google or some such—Calo asks, and Frank seems to always answer—offering a good deal of information and background to our curious main character. For instance, when Frank discovers that Calo knows nothing about American Indians, he takes him to meet his friend Joseph. Joseph is a Native American, and well-versed in American history; he tells Calo:

"[…] That's why the government decided to make the Indians move west, across the river. But Black Hawk stood up for his people…" (8.6)

Frank recognizes that Joseph is better positioned to teach Calo about Native Americans and to answer his questions, so he takes the boy there the way a teacher nowadays might organize a fieldtrip or invite a guest speaker to their classroom. Cool, right?

The thing about Frank, though, is that he doesn't just teach Calo—he teaches us as readers a whole heckofa lot too. (Now might be a good time to hop on over to our write-up about Calo elsewhere in this section and give it a read through if you haven't already.) Besides being Calo's go-to friend and savior during every scary event, this is Frank's main function in the book. The lessons he teaches Calo—whether they are about American Indians or lynching and Louisiana history (7.45)—go a long way in the story, giving readers the information they need to both understand the era the story is set in and to follow the clues leading up to the mob lynching of Calogero's family.

Life Lessons

Frank is more than a tutor for Calogero, though—he is a friend who seems to truly care about him. When Calo is crying and blaming himself for the mob taking his family away, Frank hugs him tightly and says:

"Stop it, none of this is your fault. And you have to get someplace safe." (24.128)

In an absolutely awful moment in Calo's life, Frank is there with a shoulder to cry on and Calo's best interests in mind. Because Calogero trusts Frank, he tries to believe what his friend says, and considers finding somewhere to hide—but ultimately he can't just abandon his family, so he runs to the slaughterhouse.

Later on Calo sees Frank risk his own life to try to save the lives of Calogero's family, which is always brave but takes some extra gumption when faced with a violent and completely irrational mob. Frank argues:

"Hodge isn't dead! […] We've got to wait for Sheriff Lucas." (25.18)

This attempt to save Calo's family gets Frank a gun pointed directly at him, so he has to back down. It is a moment that shows serious courage on Frank's part, though, in addition to steadfast loyalty and true friendship. When the tough questions comes up—be they about American history or basic justice—Frank stands tall and is a model teacher.

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