Study Guide

Byron Shreves in The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things

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Byron Shreves

Golden Boy? Not So Much.

Oh, Byron. Where do we even start? You were Virginia's hero; you were the Model Brewster Student every year; you're the guy Brie Newhart thinks is hot.

You're also a rapist.

Here's how Byron tries to justify his actions when his parents ask him what happened:

I'm not sure… I drank way too much that night. We started fooling around and it went too far. How can I say whether it was consensual? I couldn't remember anything the next morning. (17.20)

Insert game-show buzzer here. Not okay, Mr. Big Man. And while your mother might follow for this weak explanation, your little sister isn't so easily convinced. Here's how it goes down when Virginia finally talks to him about the rape:

"Well, you definitely let me down," I say. Normally I wouldn't be this honest with Byron, but the vodka is doing strange things to my brain.


"I used to worship you," I say, "even though you didn't treat me with the same respect that I treated you." (28.51, 54)

She might be drunk for the first time, but Virginia looks her brother in the eye and tells him how unimpressed she is with him now that she sees him more clearly. So while his parents might be blind to just how dark Byron's behavior is, Virginia refuses to ignore the ugly truth about him.

So Does He Actually Learn Anything?

Well, that's hard to say. The closest thing we get to Byron taking responsibility for his actions is when Virginia asks him if he regrets what he did to Annie. Here's his response:

Byron stabs a potato chunk with his fork. "Of course I do." (28.50)

It's not much, is it? And it's certainly not proportional to the crime he committed against Annie—not by a long shot—which makes us think Byron will only ever take as much responsibility as he's forced to for raping Annie. Unfortunately, this never amounts to much, since Virginia is the only person we see call him out.

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