Study Guide

A Long Way from Chicago The Driving Lessons

By Richard Peck

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The Driving Lessons

You know how they call 16 "sweet 16"? Well, we think that's because the age of 16 heralds the beginning of true blue (and red and white) American freedom: being able to drive.

The summer when Joey is 13 years old, he goes to visit Grandma Dowdel and decides that he absolutely has to take some driving lessons. Even though that's awfully young (at least for this day and age), Joey is insistent on getting the lessons because they're a sign that he's growing up:

"What do you want to learn to drive for anyway?" she said. "Don't you go around Chicago in taxicabs and trolleys?"

I couldn't explain it to Grandma. I was getting too old to be a boy, and driving meant you were a man. Something like that. (6.46-47)

Joey doesn't just see the driving lessons as a way to get around or a pragmatic mode of transportation; he needs them because they represent his transition from boyhood to manhood—and he can't wait to get there.

We get it, Joey: when we watched the movie Sixteen Candles, we were sad that it was about some silly crush…and not about the enduring romance between Molly Ringwald and a shiny new car.

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