Study Guide

Leslie Schwinn in Tales of the Madman Underground

By John Barnes

Leslie Schwinn

The latest addition to the line of therapists who have led the Madman Underground, Leslie Schwinn doesn't exactly seem to have potential when she "floats" (25.49) through the door on her first day. Like most of new therapists the Madmen have experienced, she's overly idealistic, a little too peppy, and doesn't seem to have any clue whatsoever of what she's getting into. "You could just tell she'd been the cutest chick in her sorority three years ago, or maybe the lead singer in a Jesus-rock antidrug band" (25.49), according to Karl.

Dr. Leslie seems to have this idea that if she just applies the theories she's learned in school, she'll be able to use them as formulas to fix the kids. What she's kind of surprised by, though, is that because the Madmen have functioned so long without a knowledgeable adult running their group, they've collectively taken over the show. When she tries to explain that she's here to build rapport among the group, Danny immediately jumps on her with a comeback. "The thing is," he says, "it's built" (25.57-58). Boom.

Before you write Leslie off as a goody-goody who has no clue how troubled these kids are, check this out. There's a very telling detail at the end of their first meeting that indicates there's more to her than it seems: "This is so like the group I was in, in high school, and then another therapy group I was in, in college" (25.98), she says to herself as she's packing up. For how fake she seems when she first shows up, Leslie has obviously dealt with her own share of difficulties, and for the first time, it seems the school has sent the Madmen somebody they might be able to identify with.