Study Guide

Bud, Not Buddy Perseverance

By Christopher Paul Curtis


I went over to the big chest of drawers and took my other set of clothes out and put them in my suitcase too. […] Here we go again. (1.44-45)

Bud has been through it all before, being at the Home, shipping off to a strange house with a strange family with strange rules, and then back to the Home for one reason or another. But despite this, he keeps a stiff upper lip and packs his bag. Here we go again, indeed.

I jumped to the floor and got my fists up. Todd might have been a lot bigger than me but he'd better be ready, this wasn't going to be a bird's nest sitting on the ground for him. He could kiss my wrist if he thought I was going to let him whip me up without a good fight. (2.28)

Even though Bud has no chance of beating Todd, or of getting out of this fight without some major punishment, Bud refuses to give up his life to this bully.

Just like there's a time that a smart person knows enough is enough, there's a time when you know you've got to fight. […] I got up off my knees and picked up the grey rake. I walked over to the woodpile cool as a cucumber. But inside, every part of my guts was shaking. (3.37-38)

Just when most kids would chicken out and curl up in a ball under a table and wait for the sun to come up, Bud takes on his most fearful demons with a rake. It, uh, doesn't turn out great, but hey, he didn't chicken out.

The end of the line was a lot farther away than I thought. […] He said, "Line's closed. These here folks are the last ones." He pointed at a man standing next to a woman who was carrying a baby.

I said, "But, sir…"

He said, "But nothing. Line's closed. These here folks are the last ones."

It was time to start lying. […]

I said, "Sir, I—"

The man raised his hand… (6.3-9)

This man is serious about the line being closed, but Bud persists because he is trying to survive on his own, not because he is disrespectful of the rules. He doesn't know any other way to get food. In the end, he gets the food because a stranger helps him, but maybe the stranger wouldn't have noticed him in the first place if Bud hadn't stuck it out trying to get in line.

I said, "And she moved all the way to Chicago?" […] They looked pretty close, but I know how tricky maps can be… I said, "How long would it take someone to walk that far?" […] She did it and said, "Fifty-four hours! Much too long to be practical…."

It doesn't seem like bad news ever gets Bud down for long. He just comes up with a new plan. He adapts: "No Miss Hill in Flint? Okay, maybe I'll just walk to Chicago. Too far? Okay, what next?" That is what helps him persevere to the end of his mission to find his family and his home.

A man screamed, "Get up, they're trying to sneak it out early! I jumped straight up and managed my head on the top of the shack. I ran outside. (8.211)

Even though one plan doesn't work out (to seek Miss Hill for help), Bud just keeps on going, taking whatever new opportunity arises—like hopping a train with Bugs. That doesn't work out, either, but even then, Bud doesn't give up. What would have happened if he had just stayed in Hooverville after missing the train?

I went over to a table and found Flint and Grand Rapids in the lines of the book. I looked where the two lines met and it said 120. Wow! That was going to be a good little walk. (9.15)

When Bud misses the train, he comes up with a new plan right away, which takes determination and guts. He also doesn't seem to mind setting off for a very long hike. Does he understand how hard it will be or how long it will take him? How will he eat or get water?

From the way the man talked he seemed like he was OK and before my brain could stop it my stomach told the rest of me to slide my suitcase deeper into the weeds and walk out. (10.32)

Despite his fear of being caught, Bud chooses to take a chance on Lefty, and because of that, he gets the food that Lefty has offered him. It turns out to be smart move for many reasons, the first of which is that Bud ends up with one of the nicest guys in Michigan.

I waited, then went back out to get my bag. I walked over to the driver's side of Lefty Lewis's car, smiled and said, "Thanks you very much, sir. He's in there, he's so glad to see me that I'm not even in a whole lot of trouble…." (12.122-123)

Although it may be a huge risk for Bud to ditch this friendly ride without a back-up plan, he presses onward in full faith that he will find his father. We are quaking in our boots when he actually walks in, though. Was it a smart move for Bud to leave Lefty behind? Or was it worth it to find Calloway and the jazz band?

He quit smiling and looked at me a lot harder, like he was really noticing me. I knew if I was a regular kid, I'd be crying buckets of tears now…(12.171-172)

Okay, so are Bud's hopes crushed and ground into the dirt? Nope, he still pushes forward with his plan, thinking that there are just too many coincidences and that this must be his father, anyway. Even though he feels like he should cry, he doesn't. He just pushes through his humiliation and sticks to his plan. Is that still a smart idea at this point?