Study Guide

Mr. Miles J. Benedict, Jr. in Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.

By Judy Blume

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Mr. Miles J. Benedict, Jr.

Poor Mr. Benedict. He's a male teacher—which wasn't as common in 1970—and it's his first year in front of a classroom. That's he's super nervous becomes abundantly clear when he introduces himself to Margaret's class on the first day of school:

"Now then… uh… you know my name. I'll tell you something about myself. Uh… I'm twenty-four years old. I'm uh… a graduate of Columbia Teachers College and uh… this is my first teaching position. Now that you know about me, I want to uh… find out about you. So, if you will copy these six phrases off the board and then complete them I'd uh… appreciate it. Thank you." He coughed. I thought he was going to wind up with a very sore throat. (4.19)

Poor guy. Anytime anyone says uh that many times, you know they're uncomfortable—and as for the coughing, well that seems to be a nervous tick of his too, since he does it at least three times before he even speaks, and then again after introducing himself. It's okay, Mr. B. They're just sixth graders.

But let's not write Mr. B off just yet, because he assigns a pretty cool project, that ends up really helping Margaret along her journey or religious exploration. As he tells his students,

Right before the bell rang Mr. Benedict told us that he was going to ask us each to do a yearlong individual project.

Everybody groaned.

Mr. Benedict held up his hands. "Now it's not as bad as it sounds, class. For one thing, it's personal—between each of you and me. I'm not going to ask what your topic is. I expect you to choose it yourself and work it up in your own way. The only thing I insist on is that it be something… uh… meaningful." (7.5-7)

And what is the most meaningful thing to Margaret at this point in her life? Figuring out religion. So while all sorts of other people are pressuring Margaret to pick a side already, Mr. B invites her to spend a whole year exploring this terrain for herself. Pretty cool, right?

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