Study Guide

Alligator Bayou Foolishness and Folly

By Donna Jo Napoli

Foolishness and Folly

"A foolish boy could take a warning shot the wrong way. He could shoot back—and aim."

"Bah!" Francesco opens the door. (2.36-37)

This is ironic—Carlo is calling Willy Rogers the foolish one, but Francesco is the one acting foolish; he isn't listening to reason and is choosing to do something that could clearly get them all killed.

"Have you ever known a fool to hold his tongue? You can just bet everyone knows all about your fight last night." Carlo sighs loudly. "Walk into town with that gun and you won't make it halfway to the Rogers house." (2.40)

True fools don't recognize the errors in their ways—so they run their mouths about what they do—and since Tallulah is filled with fools, it's likely no one saw any problem in Willy's behavior when he boasted about it to them.

"Goat go where goat go. Is nature. Is how God want. Who can prevent?" Francesco shrugs. "Not me."

"Dr. Hodge say you got to."

Francesco leans back from Bedda and folds his hands in front of his chest. (5.56-58)

Francesco is stubborn, just like a goat (be sure to check out his analysis in the "Characters" section for more on his goat-like tendencies). Making an excuse for letting your goats bother other people isn't a good way to make friends, or keep them—and Francesco's refusal to keep his goats off Dr. Hodge's front porch is a pretty stubborn and foolish decision.

He'll see how fancy we can be. With a new wood porch, white and clean. As good as his. […]

Wasting all that white paint—all that money—just to impress the doctor? (6.15-16)

Instead of listening to what Dr. Hodge has been asking, Francesco wants to impress him and make him think they are just as fancy as he is, and as such, that he shouldn't press Francesco to keep the goats penned. Even Calogero sees right through this plan.

"A snake will at least kill you fast. But a giant turtle'll take your foot off with a snap, then leave you to get eaten alive by whatever comes along next."

"Are they pulling our leg?" Cirone asks in Sicilian.

"They must be," I say back in Sicilian. "Only crazy people would go into swamps if it was that dangerous." But my heart's beating double time. (9.18-20)

Calo's beating heart lets us know that he's pretty uncertain about what's truth and what's exaggeration when it comes to the swamp creatures, but he foolishly convinces himself and Cirone that they must be joking in hopes of being accepted by this group of boys.

They laugh. Cirone is still cradling his foot in both hands, but he laughs. The idiots. And they're right. That horror—and now we're safe. Oh, yeah, I'm laughing—I'm laughing and laughing. (9.201)

The only good decision that comes out of this swamp trip is that Calogero decides to never ever do it again. But Cirone is not so smart…

"How stupid can you be? You risk your life and you come home empty-handed?" Carlo shakes his head. (10.76)

Fair enough, Carlo—you risk life and limb, you might as well get some meals or money out of it. But Calo didn't go to the swamp hoping for anything but the experience and some friends. Is this foolish of Calo?

I sink to my knees in relief.

Joseph pulls me up by the arm. "You disguised your head. You disguised your horse. You look like someone up to no good. You are stupid."

And I'm laughing like a drunk man. "You could have killed me." (12.21-23)

Calo's still really young and doesn't understand a lot of stuff yet, so you can't blame him for making mistakes—but when a mistake almost kills him, yeah, it's kinda dumb.

Francesco gathers us. "Time to leave."

"It can't be." My voice comes out as a whine. I want to snatch it back, but I can't help it. The bowl I made is still in the wagon. (13.65-66)

Sometimes foolishness is just a rookie mistake. Inexperienced when it comes to giving ladies gifts, Calo foolishly spends Patricia's graduation party wanting to give her the present he brought her, but too nervous to actually do so. Sometime you've just gotta go for it, Shmoopsters.

I work my way around them, tie my shoes on, and run.

This is crazy. If Francesco finds out I'm a dead man.

But even without Francesco, this is crazy. (14.3-5)

Where's the line between foolishness and bravery? Is it crazy for Calo to sneak out to see Patricia, or is it romantic and only a little bit risky?

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