Study Guide

Tears of a Tiger Quotes

  • Mortality

    There's some stuff I don't understand about this accident—like why it happened and why Robbie had to die and why I didn't die. Mama keeps huggin' me, sayin', "Praise the Lord" and stuff like that. But what about Robbie's mama? What is she saying? (5.1)

    B.J.'s prayer says it all: His mom is grateful that B.J. is alive, but Robbie's mom doesn't get to be thankful. He realizes that even though the accident was a miracle for him, it was awful for Robbie's family since he died.

    Last week I learned that kids my age could die. That was the most frightening experience I ever had. A boy that I knew real well, that sat next to me in study hall, died in a car crash. (6.1)

    Rhonda's essay assignment asks her about her most terrifying moment, and not surprisingly, it is about the accident. We see that she's torn up about Robbie's death, as well as about the idea that anyone her age can die.

    In addition, we have family and friends that care about us and we have the hope of a bright future. And, because we have learned that death is close by and can touch us, we must give thanks for the simplest and greatest blessing of all—life. (6.16)

    In the school newspaper, the students are reminded to be thankful, especially since it's Thanksgiving. We'd like to point out that high school students aren't usually thinking about the value of life, but when one of their own dies, they are forced to suddenly.

    With a five-dollar bill, Andy and the guys bought a six-pack of beer. They ended up buying five dollars worth of death. It seems like all a five spot can do is buy trouble, so I'd get rid of five-dollar bills. (9.4)

    Gerald's essay on what he would change about the world shows us just how fragile life is—he wishes he could change the people in his little corner of the world so he wouldn't have to suffer so much. Remember, he was supposed to be in the car accident, too, but went home instead.

    Suppose it's more than just thinkin' about death in general. Suppose I told you I sometimes think about killin' myself. (20.37)

    Andy doesn't try to hide his suicidal thoughts. In fact, he's really open about the fact that he doesn't see the point in living sometimes. It's tragic, because he doesn't get the help he needs to confront those demons.

    "It seems like bein' dead is the only way I'll ever feel alive again. Does that make sense?" (20.44)

    Nope, it doesn't actually—for Andy, though, death is a way out, an escape. He thinks he'll feel better when he's dead because he won't have to deal with his guilt any more. The only trouble is, he's leaving a lot of people behind in the same mess he's in right now.

    I'm having a rough time with Andy. I think it's because he lost his best friend and it's hard for him to get over the guilt and the pain. He once told me that his life had lost its meaning. (26.5)

    Keisha's essay shares facts about Andy with us that we don't hear him say directly—her insights show us just how down and out he really is. Andy doesn't only want to kill himself at the end; he talks about death throughout the entire novel, foreshadowing what he's about to do.

    Remember right after the accident when we realized we wasn't going to die? In spite of all that noise and fire and death, we looked at each other, and real quick like, we smiled. You know why? Cause we were alive. And we were glad. (44.1)

    Tyrone's letter to Andy reminds us that they were once glad to be alive. Making it out of the accident was a big deal for them, but Andy only thought about the pain he felt afterward. Now if only Andy could somehow get this letter…

    You can't be dead. But I went to your funeral. I felt your coffin. It was warm and woody, but you couldn't have been in it. I wanted to open it, to knock and call out your name, but I didn't dare. I went to the cemetery. I kept thinking, Everybody here is dead… they're all dead! Thousands and thousands of dead people—people who would never come back. And then I really did call out your name, and I finally cried. I wept for you—because you weren't supposed to be with all these dead people, because you can't, you just can't be dead. (44.14)

    Keisha's letter is a lot tougher. She's hard on Andy for taking his life because she was there for him when no one else was. She points out how gut-wrenching the funeral experience was for her, and shines light on the fact that death isn't an escape; it's messy and tough to deal with.

    He just couldn't cope. The whole idea of death terrified him. (45.4)

    B.J.'s prayer tells us about an Andy we never really get to meet—the one before the accident. He tells us that Andy used to be afraid of death and funerals. We guess he wasn't so scared of them anymore since the accident.

  • Guilt and Blame

    So why do I feel so guilty? I don't sleep so good at night. I keep seein' the fire and hearin' his screams and feelin' so helpless. He was too young to die like that. It's not fair. He never had a chance. Was all this done to teach us kids a lesson? Will it stop us from drinkin' and drivin'? Maybe—a few. (5.2)

    B.J.'s prayer tells us that he feels guilty over Robbie's death even though he wasn't drinking—or driving. Why? He wishes he would have stopped the guys from being so reckless, but he went along with it so they would like him.

    "You can't blame yourself forever, Andy. And if you had died instead of Rob, would you want him to be hurting like you are now?" (7.10)

    With his coach, Andy admits how he really feels. He wants to be dead instead of Rob. But his coach readily counters by inviting him to consider a different scenario, one in which Andy lives and Robbie dies. It isn't just his coach who doesn't think Andy doesn't deserve happiness—he points out that Robbie wouldn't think so either.

    "Even I thought it was a real easy sentence, maybe too easy. Do you think that was right? Shouldn't I been sent to jail or somethin'?" (7.43)

    Andy thinks he should be suffering more for what he did. This is classic guilt: You want to punish yourself for something, even when others think you're suffering plenty. Andy thinks he got off easy with the court, so he takes it upon himself to play the blame-game.

    "How did you feel then?"

    "Like a piece of crap."


    "'Cause it was my fault that Rob died."

    "Why do you say that?"

    "I was drinkin'. I was drivin'."

    "Do you think Rob blames you?"

    "I don't know. Probably not. He was such a cool dude. He took everythin' real easy. Nothin' hardly ever upset him."

    "So maybe you're blaming yourself for something that Rob forgives you for?"

    "Maybe." (11.28-37)

    In his conversation with the psychologist, Andy goes back and forth about whether or not he is to blame. The final answer? He knows Rob doesn't blame him, but he still feels terrible. It's no surprise that he feels this way since he crashed the car after having some beer, but Andy also can't seem to find any forgiveness for himself.

    "I'd say I'm not surprised. Sometimes it's part of the guilt and grieving process—to consider suicide as an alternative to the pain. But the answer is life, Andy, not death. So then I'd tell you about the other alternatives to help eliminate the pain." (20.38)

    It's too bad Andy doesn't take the psychologist's advice. Sure, he does initially, but when times get tough, he can't stand it any longer and decides to take his own life. What do you think pushes him over the edge?

    How can you tell the parents of your best friend that you're sorry that you killed their son? There's no words to cover something that awful. I know you must hate me. I wish there was some way I could've traded places with him, you know, like I should have died, and Rob should be okay. (22.1)

    Andy's letter to Rob's parents is heartfelt and difficult to write, and the guilt expresses here might be the most legit guilt he feels. Robbie's parents forgive him, though, which Andy never manages to do for himself.

    "We've almost finished our study of Macbeth. We've watched Macbeth change from a noble, trusted, dedicated soldier, willing to sacrifice his life for king and country, to a wretched, depraved, corrupt murderer who no longer has feelings of guilt or morality. It's a fascinating study of the degeneration of the human spirit." (23.1)

    When the class studies Macbeth, they talk about how the main character no longer has guilt over his actions. The teacher calls him "depraved" and the students think he deserves to die. For Andy, though, things are opposite—he has way too much guilt.

    But I think the only reason that he was so depressed was because he had been the cause of so much death that he couldn't find nothin' else good about livin'. (23.37)

    Here, B.J. talks about Macbeth's actions, but Andy runs out of the classroom upset. It hits too close to home. He thinks about how he, too, killed his best friend, and thinks he mustn't have a reason to live either, just like Macbeth.

    "Yeah, I guess I always will, but I'm learnin' to live with it."

    "I think if you had said that you no longer felt guilty, I'd be worried. I see quite a bit of improvement in you, Andy. You have progressed from a state of 'wanting to die' to the much more positive outlook of 'learning to live.' That's encouraging." (25.16-17)

    In his final session with the psychologist, Andy admits that he still feels guilty, but he thinks that will always be the case. The doc agrees. Hey, it's normal to have guilt over what happened—it's just not okay to let it get to you.

    I will never, never forget him, or that terrible night. And we felt guilty too—guilty that it was our stupid behavior that caused it, and guilty that we had lived and he had died. I been able to deal with the guilt—day by day it gets easier to handle. But you—you never got out from under the blame you put on yourself. (44.1)

    Tyrone's letter shows us how everyone else feels about the accident. It's not just Andy who feels guilty over Robbie's death; the other boys do, too. He doesn't get why Andy didn't talk to them about it or heal with them, and instead just pushed them away.

  • Race

    Do you know that she still says "Negro?" and refuses to call us black or African-American? At least she doesn't say "colored." She says that her skin is not black and never will be and that she doesn't know anyone from Africa; why should she change what has worked perfectly well all of her life? (5.51)

    There are many reasons why Andy gets annoyed at his mom, but at the top of the list is how she deals with issues that make her uncomfortable. Her awkwardness about race only leads to his frustration with how others treat black people differently in his school and mall, too.

    I'd also get rid of Band-Aids—for two reasons. One, they're beige. They say on the box, "skin tone" is the color of the bandages inside. Whose skin? Not mine! So I HATE wearing Band-Aids because they're so noticeable. (9.3)

    Gerald gets a fair amount of cuts and bruises thanks to his stepdad, and while he's annoyed at having to hide this abuse in the first place, the fact that Band-Aids only highlight him doing so really irks him. And Gerald's not the only one with beef.

    "The only one in my family who is really cool is my little brother, Monty. But I worry about him. I think when he gets to be my age, he's goin' to have a lot of problems. I know he's only six, but he doesn't think black is cool. And he's got this thing for little girls with yellow hair—yeah, I worry about the kid sometimes." (11.64)

    Andy worries about Monty because of his fascination with blonde chicks. This might seem harmless at first, but Andy thinks it means a lot more than a crush on some cute girls—he understands this as his little bro liking white people more than black people, and thinking they are better, which isn't cool.

    "I don't know. I guess she just assumes I'm another stupid black kid. So it's easier to pretend to be stupid than to be bothered with all that grade-grubbin' that the white kids do. Lots a white kids, and some of the white teachers too, think all of us are sorta dumb." (14.47)

    When the therapist asks why teachers never call on him, this is Andy's response. He's not just dealing with the loss of his friend and his guilt; he's also figuring out his place in the world. Having teachers think he's one thing because of his skin color only hurts him as he tries to figure this out.

    "Same way it makes you feel—like cheap crap. So, anyway, we'd play with her for a while, then tell her we'd be right back with Daddy's credit card. I know they thought we were scopin' them for a robbery—if you look back into the store right after we left, you could see her writin' down vital information, scribblin' furiously our height and weight and skin color so she can identify us when we come back to rob her silly behind." (17.9)

    In the mall, people get nervous because they're black, Andy says. He and Rob would make a joke of it and pretend to be interested in buying stuff just to see the salespeople squirm, but in reality, it really got to him.

    "Why is that in the literature and poems and everythin' we read in English class, black usually stands for somethin' bad and white stands for somethin' good? The good guys always ride a white horse, and the bad guy is always a black-hearted villain. How come?" (19.31)

    Andy asks his English teach why these colors always mean good or bad, which starts a class discussion about imagery. In Andy's life, this is sometimes how he feels. It's as though teachers and store clerks think black people aren't as smart or rich as white people in his world. Want more? Head on over to the "Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory" section.

    "About twenty to twenty-five years ago, social activists started a campaign to get rid of unfair, negative racial stereotypes. That's when we first started hearing the phrases, 'Black is beautiful' and 'Say it loud, I'm black and I'm proud!'" (19.50)

    As Andy and his classmates think about examples of black being positive, their teacher explains some of the racial history behind the terms. We can't help but notice that this is one of the only moments in the book where being black is associated with something positive.

    "Well, times have changed. Stereotypes of color, race, and gender are slowly disappearing. It's up to you people to make a world that is better." (19.55)

    The teacher says that times have changed, but have they in Andy's world? It seems like he's still dealing with a lot of racial issues and stereotypes, even if they are bubbling up under the surface most of the time.

    "Black kids are tough. They see a lot in life that we never experience. For example, that kid Gerald Nickelby, whose stepfather beats him up. Everybody knows about it. […] Like I said, they're tough. A white kid would have cracked under the pressure that Andy went through." (29.6)

    During break one day, two teachers talk about Andy and everything he's been through, when one comments that he can handle it because of his skin color. What's even more disappointing about this racist attitude is that it comes from a teacher who should be helping the students achieve and steer clear of these stereotypes out there. Ugh.

    It was almost impossible to be taken seriously in the business world with a name like "Ezekiel." I'd be sitting in a meeting with a group of five or six of them, all of us in blue suits and serious ties. (37.55)

    Andy resents the fact that his dad wants to impress white people, but when his dad explains why he changed his name, it makes sense to Andy: He just wants to be taken seriously by white people and not judged by his name. Is that too much to ask?

  • Friendship

    Last week, there were 400 people in the Senior Class. Today there are 399. One student became a statistic when he lost his life in an accident involving drinking and driving. Usually, statistics don't mean much, but this statistic had a name, a face, a basketball jersey, and friends. (6.13)

    For the seniors at Hazelwood High, this death isn't a statistic, it's their friend that they lost. It hurts all the more because so many of the students—and all of the characters who we get to know—are close with Robbie.

    "Anyway, the first day I saw him, he was pickin' his hair out with his red pick and diamond-lookin' things on it. I went over to him, and said, 'Won't yo' mama get mad when she finds out you took her pick?' He slowly put the pick in his back pocket, slowly looked at me, and then proceeded to beat the snot out of me. We've been tight ever since." (7.14)

    To his coach, Andy shares about the first time he met Robbie and how they became friends. It's good for us to hear this backstory, but also good for Andy to remember the good times he had with Robbie before the accident.

    "It's me, brother. Your main man, Roberto. And yes, I'm cold. Very cold. It's no fun bein' dead."

    "I'm sorry, Rob. You know I didn't mean to hurt you."

    "Understood, my man. But when're you comin' to keep me company?" (21.67-69)

    Dreaming about Rob, Andy thinks about how close he was to his buddy. He also imagines how lonely Robbie is without him in heaven, which only makes him feel guiltier.

    These are some of the things I remember about you, your family, and Rob. I will always treasure those days, and I will never forgive myself for destroying something very special. I hope that someday you will be able to forgive me, but if not, I hope you will be able to remember without so much pain. (22.13)

    Andy's letter to Rob's parents doesn't pretend to smooth things over. Instead, he focuses on the friendship that he shared with Robbie and all the good times. It's helpful for him to voice this to Robbie's parents so they know the tough time he's going through, too.

    "Thank you, boys. Andrew should be proud to have such good friends." (24.35)

    When B.J. and Tyrone want to get help for Andy, their counselor tells them they're good friends, but does nothing. It's clear that even the best of friends can't take away someone's pain without the right support themselves.

    Without friends, life would be boring, lonely, and meaningless. Nobody comes to high school for the teachers—not really. We come to see our friends. (26.1)

    Keisha's essay explains just how important friends are. Sure, we all like to have friends, but she relies on hers for laughs and supportive, plus high school wouldn't be the same without them.

    When the bad times come, like when Robbie died, a friend is the most important thing in the world. (26.3)

    It's hard to find a true friend who will stick with you through thick and thin. For Keisha, she's found that in her buddies in the class—without them, she wouldn't have been able to deal with Robbie's death. Yet Andy doesn't rely on his friends as much as he does on Keisha.

    "Stop me from seein' my best friend? He's in pieces at Spring Grove People Graveyard. I took care of that myself—I killed him—remember? So, you can't hurt me. I deal with big-time hurt every day." (37.46)

    Andy's dad chews him out for getting poor grades, and Andy's response is to yell everything he feels back at his dad. He asks what other punishment he can dish out for poor grades—he's punished enough by losing his friend and getting his license revoked.

    Andy left without sayin' good-bye and I don't know why. He had friends that cared about him that he didn't ask for help. I feel like he punched me in the gut and I can't hit back. (43.14)

    It's not just about Andy anymore; it's also about his friends, and they don't get why Andy wouldn't turn to them for help if he needed it. That's what friends do, right? Now, they're all alone and feeling guilty that they weren't good enough friends to him in a tough time.

    You deserted your friends and family—the people who love you the most. Suicide is the coward's way out. Brave men face their problems. So what does that make you? (44.6)

    Gerald's letter highlights just how much Andy's death affects the community around him. These are tough words to hear, but it's good for Andy's friends to express their emotions after Andy's suicide.

  • Drugs and Alcohol

    "We just gonna chill. We might try to find a party, or we might just finish off them beers and let the party find us. Then I'm headin' over to Keisha's house, after I take these turkeys home." (2.28)

    To the guys, having a couple of beers doesn't seem like a big deal. Never mind that they are underage. Or that they are driving. What's the worst that could happen? It's too bad they don't take it seriously, because they soon find out.

    "Yeah, we was all drinkin'—all 'cept B.J.—he don't drink. We had put about four six-packs in the trunk of Andy's car before the game. Since the weather's been so cold, puttin' 'em in the trunk was as good as a cooler, so they was nice and frosty by the time we got to 'em." (4.3)

    Tyrone's statement to police makes it clear what happened. No one lies or pretends they weren't drinking, which lets us know these aren't "bad" kids.

    "After a while the car started to sway, but I wasn't sure if it was me gettin' dizzy or if the car really was weaving across the expressway. At the time it seemed really funny. We was laughin' so hard—especially when people started honkin' at us." (4.4)

    Because the guys were drunk, they found everything hilarious, even when it wasn't. They heard the warning signs (people honking) but still kept driving because the beer had gone to their heads. By the time they realized what's happening, it was too late to do anything about it.

    Andy and Rob and Tyrone all knew that I didn't drink—they never bothered me much about it. I think they even respected me a little because of it. I told them that drinking at an early age had stunted my growth, so I had given it up in favor of other vices. (Actually I think beer tastes like boiled sweat socks.) (5.2)

    In B.J.'s prayer, he admits he feels guilty over what happened because he wasn't drinking. Huh? He wonders whether they would have gotten in the accident if he had the courage to stand up to his pals and tell them not to drink and drive.

    I didn't cry. I felt really sick inside—and mad at Andy and them for drinking in the first place. I thought we'd all come back for our reunions and then we'd get old, and then, when we're so old it doesn't matter anymore, we'd die. (6.5)

    Rhonda's upset by what happened, especially because it was preventable. Why were the guys even drinking to begin with? She realizes that this single decision has drastically changed all of their lives.

    Every 18 minutes, every day of the year, someone is killed in a drunk-driving accident. Alcohol-related fatalities are the number one cause of death in teenagers. When will we learn? (6.14)

    The school newspaper gives us a statistic about drinking and driving, but no one seems to notice or care—everyone thinks it will be different when it's them. Alas, that's not how the world works; statistics like this one are always real people somebody knows.

    "I coulda controlled the drinkin'. I knew better. We all did. We just never figured it would happen to us." (7.27)

    Andy admits to his coach that he messed up. He shouldn't have gotten behind the wheel, but it didn't seem like a big deal at the time—he thought he was above anything bad happening.

    With a five-dollar bill, Andy and the guys bought a six-pack of beer. They ended up buying five dollars worth of death. It seems like all a five spot can do is buy trouble, so I'd get rid of five-dollar bills. (9.4)

    Gerald's essay about what he would change in the world emphasizes the importance of beer in the accident. Without it, Robbie would still be alive and Andy wouldn't feel so depressed and guilty, so he wishes he could take it away from the world.

    "That night, it seemed like a mountain. And the longer I stood there, the more I became like— sorta hypnotized by the slick whistlin' of the cars as they rushed beneath us. And I wanted to jump." (20.22)

    When Andy sees the wall they crashed into and it's only four-feet tall, Andy's shocked. He thought it was huge. The fact is that alcohol impairs judgment, so he can't trust anything he saw the night of the accident; his memory is very different from the reality of that evening.

    "It's all your fault, you know. All your fault. You got the beer. You drove the car. You smashed into the wall. You killed me. And now you gotta come and keep me company." (21.64)

    In his dream, Andy imagines Rob saying this and blaming him. After all, Andy bought the alcohol and then drove. It's rough, but it is accurate. Now we're not saying Andy should hate himself for the rest of his life, but we are pointing out that he has to come to terms with some tough truths.

  • Darkness and Light

    It's dark where I am and I cannot find the light. There are shadows all around me and my heart is full of fright. (16.1)

    The poem Andy writes for his class talks about light and darkness, especially in connection with his emotions. It's too bad he never finds the light, because his friends certainly tap into it for themselves.

    "You a trip, Keisha. You always see the bright side of everythin'."

    "What can I say ? I'm a rose in the snow—the bright spot in your dark, seems-like-it's-always-depressed life." (19.13-14)

    Here, Keisha and Andy talk about their outlooks on life since Andy is a downer and Keisha is more positive. Notice how she describes herself as being in the light, whereas Andy is in the dark. This theme crops up everywhere in the novel.

    "Hey, Andy—would you turn my light back on?"

    "Why? You scared of the dark, Monty?"

    "No, I just want to be able to see stuff while I'm fallin' asleep." (21.1)

    With his little brother, Andy gets confused about why the light needs to be on while he's sleeping. We can see that the darkness is scary, even when there's no reason for it to be, like when you're at home in your own room. We also see, though, that light is associated with seeing—something that, metaphorically, Andy fails to do clearly.

    "The tones of black and white have the greatest amount of contrast between them, therefore writers and poets, who have always dealt with extremes in passion and people, use black and white to create those images of contrast. Can you think of any other example where color is used as a metaphor to express an idea?" (19.32)

    When the idea of light and dark comes up in English class, the teacher explains some of the reasoning behind this common theme. Just in case we missed it in the book we're reading, we can learn about its meaning through this class discussion. Yay.

    "Dag! Everything good that's dark, they take it and make it white!" (19.45)

    Leave it to Andy to bring us down. His comment isn't just about darkness and lightness here; he's expressing how he feels about the world. For Andy, darkness cannot hold onto goodness.

    "I mean I don't see myself at all. When I think about the future, all I see is a blank—and darkness." (21.36)

    Gulp. We start to get some serious signs about Andy's feelings on life here, especially in connection to his future. If he doesn't see anything but darkness, he doesn't want to keep on living.

    And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player, That struts and frets his hour upon the stage. (23.12)

    This quote from Macbeth talks about the darkness, or shadows, of life. The class decides it means that life is no longer meaningful in any way—too bad Andy agrees.

    "It was dark, so I couldn't see, and I was under the water, so I couldn't breathe. I tried to scream, but water got into my mouth and my throat and my chest. I was cryin' out for help, but my cries only made things worse. That's how I feel tonight, Mom. That's exactly how I feel tonight." (34.28)

    Andy tells his mom about what happened on vacation and again turns to the idea of dark to express himself. It's clear that he connects with the notion of darkness since he can't breathe or cope any longer, even out of water.

    "When I think about school, I feel like I'm in a dark, closed room, with invisible hands pushin' me from all directions, pushin' me toward a light I can't see. Some kids can see the light. Some walk around like they got lights screwed in their foreheads. Some just carry a glow, like Keisha. Yeah, Keisha shines." (38.16)

    If we were told to use one word to describe Andy's feelings, we'd use dark. He thinks everything in his life is dark, because he can't make sense of it all. It's no surprise that he finds himself searching for answers when all he feels is confusion.

    So I know Andy was afraid. His soul is probably still out there somewhere—floating in the darkness, looking for hope, hoping for forgiveness, and terribly, terribly frightened. (45.6)

    B.J.'s prayer for Andy reminds us what Andy was feeling leading up to his death. He didn't know how to deal with the emotions and guilt he experienced after Robbie's death because it was all too raw and real. So raw and real, in fact, that B.J. envisions him struggling with it even after he's dead.

  • Isolation

    And I always have to make up a reason about how I hurt myself. When Andy came back to school after the accident, he was wearing a bunch of Band-Aids. At least it took the attention away from me for a while. (9.4)

    Gerald feels isolated protecting his secret—that his stepdad beats him. He doesn't want to hide it any longer, but he knows there'll be tough times ahead if he opens up about it. Plus, no one gets what he goes through. Sure, his buddies try to help out, but they don't really know how.

    "He's been real moody lately, Coach. Sometimes he just likes to be alone. He don't talk to us like he used to." (10.4)

    Andy's friends tell the coach that he's been pushing them away ever since the night of the accident. Andy might feel like no one cares about him when he commits suicide, but in reality, he isolates himself from his closest friends.

    "It's hard for us to understand why things like this happen, and I think you're doing a remarkable job of handling a very rough situation. You came back to the team, you're playing well—and we all support you. You know that. Actually, you are the glue that's holding the team together. Without you, we'd all fall apart." (10.31)

    Coach Ripley tells Andy not to blame himself for everything that's happened. Instead, he encourages him to be a part of the community of the team. The opposite of isolation is definitely being on a team and working together, which is what the coach wants for Andy.

    With no friends to talk to or to go places with, life can be very lonely. It's sad to be alone—wanting to share your thoughts with a friend and having no one there, except maybe your little brother or sister, to be with. Sometimes I feel so alone I just want to cry. (26.2)

    Keisha's essay talks about how tough life would be without friends. She thinks about her friends as her lifeline, helping her out during the tough times, and making her laugh no matter what. Andy, on the other hand, doesn't notice how important friendships are and cuts them all off when he's dealing with pain.

    "Perhaps, but I see other things in his personality that concern me. When he's not causing noticeable disturbances, he's somewhat withdrawn. He's stopped combing his hair, he slumps in his seat, and he keeps his head down on the desk unless I constantly remind him to sit up and pay attention. Is he getting enough sleep at night?" (27.10)

    When Andy's teacher calls home and talks to Andy's dad, she says that Andy is super withdrawn these days. He's pulling away from everyone, not letting anyone in, as though he wants to be alone. His dad basically blows this observation off, though.

    "I wish you'd quit callin' it 'the unfortunate incident'! It wasn't an 'incident'! It was a crash! A terrible, terrible crash! And it was my fault! You need a dose of reality, Mom. You want to pretend it didn't happen and I can't deal with this by myself." (34.12)

    Finally, Andy admits to his mom that he can't deal with the accident alone. He's had Keisha's shoulder to cry on, but that's not around any more. Now, he wants help, but no one knows what to say to make it better.

    She told me that she was tired of holding his hand and nursing him through his temper tantrums and crying spells. She said she was glad it was over finally. She didn't have the nerve to break up with him before this. I don't know what Andy is going to do now. She told him they could still be friends, but Andy needs more than that. I feel sorry for him, but I side with Keisha—she ain't no shrink. That dude needs help. (35.5)

    Whether Keisha means to or not, she isolates Andy by dumping him. In fairness, she can't be his shrink when she's just in high school—but we also know that Andy needs support from people around him to get through this, and he doesn't get it. Sigh.

    So what do I do now? Pray? Cry? Hide under the bed from the monsters that are inside of me? No, I'm just going to sit here and think. I'm goin' to think about why I'm sittin' here on my bed, holdin' my dad's huntin' rifle, feelin' how smooth and cool it feels. (41.1)

    Andy thinks about how he feels when he calls and no one can talk to him right before he takes his life. Even though he's spent time pushing his friends away, now he wants them close, but no one is around when he calls… but has he really exhausted his friend resources?

    Andy left without sayin' good-bye and I don't know why. He had friends that cared about him that he didn't ask for help. I feel like he punched me in the gut and I can't hit back. (43.14)

    Andy hurts people by isolating himself so much. In fact, when he kills himself, everyone is angry with him and confused by his actions. They've all wanted to be his friend, but he hasn't let them.

    You deserted your friends and family—the people who love you the most. Suicide is the coward's way out. Brave men face their problems. So what does that make you? (44.6)

    In Gerald's letter, we get to see a different side of Andy. We've heard about how he feels being all alone, but here we see that he has people alongside him who want to help, but haven't been given the chance.

  • Choices

    "We just gonna chill. We might try to find a party, or we might just finish off them beers and let the party find us. Then I'm headin' over to Keisha's house, after I take these turkeys home." (2.28)

    If we had to guess, we'd say that every single guy in the car that night would change the decisions they made post-game.

    Is it my fault that Robbie is dead? I wasn't drivin'. I wasn't even drinkin'. (5.2)

    B.J. questions his choices, too, even though he wasn't drinking. It's not just the alcohol that caused the accident, but that fact that he didn't say anything to his buddies about it. Perhaps if he made different choices, his friend would still be alive.

    "We ran around to that side but the door was bent shut and we couldn't get it open. All of us was screamin' by that time, 'cause we could see his feet stickin' through the windshield. His legs was cut and bleedin' really bad. All we could see was these brand-new Nikes stickin' out the window, with the rest of Rob screamin' and hollerin', stuck inside." (5.5)

    We already know how Robbie dies, and what leads to it, but Draper doesn't let us off that easily—we get to hear the specifics of what their decisions caused, complete with gory details, so it's as though we live through the event with the boys, too.

    "From what I hear, you have your share of guts and courage too. Without you, the other boys may have been injured much more than they were. Wasn't it you that helped get Tyrone and B.J. out of the car?" (7.25)

    Even though Andy blames himself for Robbie's death, Coach Ripley reminds him that he helped the other guys, too. If we let our bad choices define us, then we don't have an opportunity to let the good ones define us, too.

    "It's all your fault, you know. All your fault. You got the beer. You drove the car. You smashed into the wall. You killed me. And now you gotta come and keep me company." (21.64)

    In his dream, Andy imagines Rob saying this to him. Do you think it helps Andy to imagine what Robbie would tell him, or does it only make things worse?

    So, instead of writing, "I'm sorry about what happened" 6,000 times on a sheet of notebook paper (like the teachers used to make us do in elementary school when we were bad), I decided to write you this letter to help you remember the good stuff, instead of the bad. (22.1)

    Andy's letter to Robbie's parents is super sad because it gets right to the heart of the matter: He knows he can't change his choices; he knows nothing will alter the past. But he wants to tell them how much their son meant to him nonetheless.

    College scouts? And I missed 'em? My dad makes me sick. It's all his fault. I'll never get a scholarship now. When they see my low grades, all my absences , and my police record, they'll break their necks runnin' away… I don't care. I don't care. (36.22)

    Here, Andy begins to question his choices in life. He realizes that he doesn't have many options left because of the choices he's made to skip school and not study for months. He's gotten himself into a situation that he doesn't know the way out of.

    It's not that I want to die—it's just that I can't stand the pain of livin' anymore. I just want the hurt and pain inside to go away. It's like a monster in my gut—eatin' me up from the inside out. Actually, I feel like the only thing that's keepin' me from going crazy is this terrible, terrible pain. (39.5)

    Whether or not Andy wants to die almost doesn't matter as much as the choices he makes to get himself into this situation. He feels lost and hopeless because he no longer has a happy future or options for college. But what would happen if he made different choices since the accident? Or what if he just decided to start making better decisions right now?

    Robbie's death was an accident. Somehow I can deal with that, but what you did—it just don't make no sense to me. You're making everything so rough for the rest of us. (44.3)

    Tyrone's letter makes it clear just how rough Andy's suicide is. He explains that he can't get over the fact that Andy chose to do this—this was no accident, which makes it much worse in his mind.

    I'm not through with you. Your mom found you, or what was left of you. Did you think about her? Could you feel her pain as she walked into your room, and saw your body draped across your bed, a gun still clutched in your hand, and shattered segments of your head spread across a room which looked as if it had been painted with blood? Do you know what blood smells like, Andy? Your mom does. She'll never forget it. Part of her died that day too. (44.11)

    Rhonda makes it clear how much Andy's choices affected people around him. It's not just about how he was feeling or who was there to help him—nope, his decision to end his life hurts lots of other people, too.