Study Guide

Victor Vollmer the Third in Paperboy

By Vince Vawter

Victor Vollmer the Third

Not a Regular Kid

The thing about Victor is that he looks like a normal kid from the outside. He has a normal family and lives in a normal house and has normal all-American pastimes like playing baseball. But once Victor starts talking, it's clear that he's different from other kids:

The reason I hate talking to people who don't know me is because when they first see me I look like every other kid. Two eyes. Two arms. Two legs. Crew-cut hair. Nothing special. But when I open my mouth I turn into something else. Most people don't take the time to understand what's wrong with me and probably just figure I'm not right in the head. (1.20)

Victor stutters, and this is something that defines his entire life. Because of his stutter, Victor feels self-conscious and like an outsider. He has a hard time making friends and asserting himself because he's certain that everyone is watching and making fun of him. In fact, when he goes out with his parents and their friends, Victor feels so nervous about being in public and having to answer questions that he literally throws up:

My mother looked at me like I should do something quick but my mouth jerked open before I could grab the red cloth napkin in my lap. Spaghetti and everything else inside methe whole shootin' match as Rat liked to saywas set free with an air that wasn't the least bit gentle. (7.36)

Living with his stutter is something that Victor has to learn how to do. It's a major barrier at the beginning of the book, but since it may never go away, a key part of his journey is learning to make peace with this difference and no longer let it keep him quiet.

Baseball Whiz

Importantly, Victor's stutter is just one facet of his character. He also happens to be a superb baseball player, which is something that impresses other kids. In fact, he learns that his best friend Rat has even been going around telling people about what an awesome baseball player Victor is:

I know you to be a good friend of Young Arthur's. By the by, Young Arthur says you have more velocity on your fastball than anyone in the sixth grade. (3.99)

Being known for his pitching abilities makes Victor realize that people don't just see him as a stutterer—they notice him for other stuff, too. His friends don't concentrate on the fact that he stutters as his defining characteristic; they like to brag about all the cool stuff that he can do. For them, this is what really sets him apart. Learning this helps Victor start to see himself differently, too.

Little Man

Mam calls Victor "Little Man" all the time, and the nickname suits him because even though he's just a kid, he is becoming a man. He's starting to find his voice and state his opinions, even if it's hard sometimes. For instance, he decides to go ahead and do the paper collecting himself even though he's scared of talking to strangers and even though Mam offers to join him:

I'll go collectin' with you.

s-s-s-s-Ned to s-s-s-s-do it on s-s-s-s-my own.


You be growing up, Little Man. I's proud of you.
(1.36-38)

As Victor grows up, he realizes that he has to make stuff happen for himself without relying on other people. This includes trying to get his knife back from Ara T, talking to people even though it scares him, and seeking out knowledge—even if it means that he's going to have to do some extracurricular reading.

And this is perhaps the most defining trait Victor has: Though there are plenty of things stacked against him—his stutter, his naiveté (Mam warns him not to interact with Ara T plenty of times), his insecurity—Victor is consistently willing to take risks, to push himself and see what happens. Does he often wind up needing a bit of help? Yup. But this doesn't stop him from trying to make his own way in the world, and in the end, it's this willingness to put himself out there that enables Victor to grow up so much in the course of just one summer.

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