Study Guide

Crash Violence and Aggression

By Jerry Spinelli

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Violence and Aggression

Chapter 1

For some reason, that laughing was the last straw. I plucked the silly button off his shirt, dumped it in the hole I was digging, and covered it over with dirt. (1.32)

Ah, the old ritual where the alpha male buries the beta male's button. We saw that in a nature documentary one time. Why do you suppose it's Penn's laughter that pushes Crash over the edge?

It started way back when I got my first football helmet for Christmas. […] Seems I knocked my cousin Bridget clear back out the doorway and onto her butt into a foot of snow. (1.2)

This, apparently, is how Crash got his nickname, and it confirms something for us: Crash was pretty much born aggressive. He was not born wearing a football helmet, however. That would be weird.

Chapter 2

I got the feeling that he was inviting me to snatch this second button if I wanted.

So I did. I plucked it off his shirt. But there was no hole this time to dump it in. […] So I gave it back to him. (2.17-2.18)

Sometimes bullies act kind of silly, you know? Crash yanking off that button and handing it right back is one of those times, in our humble opinion. This also shows that Crash doesn't act with a lot of foresight. (If he did, he would have dug another hole first, then plucked off the second button.)

Chapter 4
John "Crash" Coogan

"What's a Quaker?" The only Quaker I had ever heard of was Quaker Oats cereal.

"It's somebody who doesn't believe in violence," he said.

I told him, "Who says you have to believe in it? You just do it." (4.1-4.3)

Two things. First, Penn is a Quaker, so he doesn't believe in violence. Fine.

Second, there's Crash's response, which is not fine. Don't think about violence, just perpetrate it? That's essentially what he's saying, and it gives us some insight into Crash's character. Granted, he's only, like, 5 when he says it, but it sort of sets the tone for some of his future behavior.

I slammed my own gun to the ground. I stomped and stomped on it till it was green plastic splinters. I stormed up to the garage, over to the flower garden, out to the street, back to him. (4.20)

Young Crash isn't exactly the poster child for "thinking things through" or "working things out." Though he would be a good candidate for a campaign to encourage hissy fits.

Chapter 15

We weren't really mad at each other. It was all just part of football. Football, see, is a violent and emotional game. The more charged up you are, the better you play. (15.13)

Crash sees aggression as a positive way to improve his performance—a good thing. And he says that he and Mike go at each other because of football. Still, we can't help but notice that they were pushing each other around the first time they met, long before they played football together…and we're not sure it was all in the name of upping each other's game.

Chapter 23

This time when she tried to yank herself free, she couldn't. The Grip of Iron had her. And then she kicked me, right above my heel in my Achilles tendon. My leg buckled. I let go of her. (23.19)

When Jane refuses to dance with Crash, he drags her to the dance floor, caveman-style. (Not cool, bro.) He's totally oblivious to the bad impression he makes on Jane and others. Why is it that he can't see how poorly his behavior reflects on him?

Chapter 24

As we left, I made sure we passed Webb and Jane coming off the dance floor. I took a quick half step to the left, set my legs, and rammed into him with my shoulder. He went flying on his rear about ten feet across the floor. (24.15)

Crash almost sounds like he has superhero strength, right? He clearly thought this was a smooth move, but all we see is unnecessary violence. Poor Penn. Then again, maybe it's poor Crash. He's the one who comes off looking like a jerk, all the while thinking he has the upper hand.

Chapter 29

I reached out but couldn't touch him, so I dove, flew through the air, and tackled him at the knees and brought him down—he felt like sticks—just inches from the Weedwacker. (29.16)

It's a nice, friendly game of family football. Until Crash tackles his frail grandfather. What was he thinking? Did Crash mean to hurt his grandfather, or was he just caught up in the moment?

Chapter 42

He thumped me on the chest. "Huh?" Thumped me again, harder. "Huh?"

I stood still as a rock. I knew what he was doing. He wanted me to thump him back, like I always did. Locker-room buddy bulls. (42.20-42.21)

Crash and Mike just love to thump each other's chests. It's like locker-room theater they perform to show each other they're manly men. This time, though, Crash thumps a little harder than Mike is expecting. Was that necessary? Could Mike have gotten the same message from Crash if Crash had just rolled his eyes and walked away?

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