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George "Sticky" Washington appears to have a photographic memory. Everything he reads sticks in his mind (hence the tactile nickname), and Sticky reads a lot. Needless to say, he's pretty darned smart, and he'd give both Ken Jennings, a run for their money if he ever appeared on Jeopardy. Maybe.
We say maybe because Sticky doesn't exactly have nerves of steel—in fact, he has a bit of an anxiety problem. We're aware of it from the first moment he appears in the book, primarily because that's how Reynie describes him ("he had big, nervous eyes like a horse's" and "he seemed quite shy, or at the very least anxious" (2.24)), but also because of the way he's constantly polishing his glasses, something he does whenever he gets particularly nervous. So in terms of Jeopardy? Yeah, he'd kick some serious patootie if he could keep his nerves in check.
Indeed, he nearly has a heart attack when he first meets Kate. After she flies into the room where Sticky and Reynie have been chatting, Sticky is "breathing hard and casting glances at the door, as if a lion might fly in next" (2.64). And when he has to make his decision about whether or not to join Mr. Benedict's team, the others look at him only to find that:
Sticky had been shrinking in his chair. He had drawn his feet up beneath him, crossed his arms over his knees, and buried his face behind them. At Mr. Benedict's words, he looked up with an expression of something like panic, then quickly hid his face again. (5.8)
So he doesn't do so well with being put on the spot, either.
But what Sticky really seems to lack is self-confidence, and we can understand why. His parents—who we suppose turn out to be decent people in the end—got so caught up in his ability to win prizes and money thanks to his spectacular memory that they forgot to parent him. Sure they may have thought they were helping him to achieve fame and fortune that would eventually afford him a life of freedom and leisure, but they didn't listen to him, and they didn't seem to value him for anything but his earning potential.
Sticky ran away because he felt abandoned by his parents—and then he thought he overheard them saying they were better off without him, and that made things even worse. Because think about it: your parents are supposed to love you no matter what, right? So if your parents don't love you, you might start feeling like nobody will. And that's exactly what Sticky's worst fear turns out to be: "Not being wanted at all" (26.103).
But Sticky is wanted—by his parents (who have apparently spent all of their money and then some to find him), and by his friends. Of course Sticky doesn't find out about his parents until the very end, which makes his sacrifice of going back into the Whisperer—and volunteering to go first—all the more heroic, not to mention seriously touching. Seriously. Truth be told, we got a little teary when Sticky made his discovery in Chapter 34, which is aptly named, "Sticky's Discovery."
He makes his discovery when it comes time for him to Benedict-up and take one for the team. As he's contemplating whether or not he's brave enough to face the Whisperer again, he realizes that indeed he is—largely because, "in these last days, he'd become friends with people who cared about him, quite above and beyond what was expected of him" (34.92). Now that's something he should have gotten from his parents, and we're a little miffed at them for not providing it from the get-go. But hey, we understand: people make mistakes. And Shmoop is nothing if not forgiving.
But where Sticky's parents initially failed, his friends came through. And "the effect […] of all his friendships [grew] stronger and stronger, until […] he knew it to be true. There was bravery in him. It only had to be drawn out" (34.92).
And you know what? From that moment on, Sticky never—not even once—polishes his spectacles again. That's not to say that he doesn't get scared. He does. And there is one moment in which he feels a strong urge to polish his spectacles but is too petrified to move.
But do you know what he does instead? He sasses Mr. Curtain. Okay it's not exactly sass, but after Mr. Curtain glowers and screams at Reynie and Sticky, Sticky delivers one of his most comical lines of the book, the very understated, "I don't suppose you'd accept an apology?" (37.2). And we know then and there that Sticky has turned a corner. His anxiety—at least the part of it that stemmed from his fear of abandonment—is a thing of the past.
And when his parents show up in the end to offer him the unconditional love to which he was always entitled (okay, so we've only mostly forgiven them), we get the feeling that Sticky (who is occasionally Bashful, though never Dopey or Grumpy) will finally be Happy.