Study Guide

Lefty Lewis in Bud, Not Buddy

By Christopher Paul Curtis

Lefty Lewis

What Would Lefty Do?

Just try to find a kinder man than Lefty Lewis.

Lefty is an unusual guy because he's so understanding and forgiving. This is what makes him such a savior for Bud: he's just what Bud needs at a difficult moment in Bud's life. Not only is Lefty willing to sacrifice his own safety for Bud, he also forgives Bud and understands his needs without a second thought.

When Lefty sees Bud walking alone, he decides, against his better judgment, to stop and fetch the boy, even though he could be caught and killed for being in Owosso at night. Lefty is called to do the right thing even though Bud is not the easiest or most willing child to persuade. Lefty doesn't want Bud to be in danger, and so he uses every tool he's got to get Bud off the highway and into his car to safety. Pretty good luck for Bud that he ran into someone like Lefty.

Lefty is very patient with Bud because he wants to be sure that Bud will be all right. For example, when Bud runs off with Lefty's car and leaves him in the dust, Lefty immediately shows him compassion and empathy by humoring him rather than scolding him.

Remember what happens next? The car stalls out and Bud, thinking that Lefty is a vampire, asks to see Lefty's teeth. What do you think a lot of people would do in Lefty's place? Yell? Scold? Kick Bud out of the car? Well, here's what Lefty does: "The man mumbled something, shook his head again, then leaned close to the window glass and opened his mouth" (11.13). Lefty knows that Bud is a scared kid with no one to help him, so he goes along with what Bud wants. He's willing to go out of his way to make Bud feel safe.

It's a Bird, It's a Plane… No, It's a Redcap

Even though he's just a regular guy, Lefty Lewis has some special gifts that come in handy for Bud. For one thing, Lefty is willing to risk his life to help another in need. He does this in several ways in this book. For instance, when we meet him, he's on his way to Flint from Grand Rapids just to deliver donated blood to the hospital for a person in surgery. He also picks up secret flyers announcing a meeting to organize laborers into a union, which is illegal at that time.

But more importantly for Bud, Lefty understands the danger of racist white groups in Michigan better than most. Lefty tells Bud, "My problem is I'm not quite as brave as you are. I'm feeling very, very uncomfortable standing on the side of the road just outside of Owosso, Michigan at two-thirty in the morning, and the sooner you can put my mind at ease about what you're doing out here the sooner we both can go about our business, OK?" (10.49).

Lefty is good at warning Bud about the dangers of being out alone in a place like Owosso, but he's also good at talking about this in a way that is gentle and kid-friendly. It's because of Lefty's good heart, his understanding, and his concern for a lost kid that Bud finally gets on the path to find his family in a safe way. Thanks, Lefty.