Study Guide

The View from Saturday Wisdom and Knowledge

By E. L. Konigsburg

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Wisdom and Knowledge

I told her that I was taught never to use the word you are defining in its definition and that she ought to think of a substitute word for letter if she is defining it. Mother then made a remark about how Western Civilization was in a decline because people of my generation knew how to nitpick but not how to write a B & B Letter. ("Noah Writes a B & B Letter".1)

Noah may have a lot of knowledge, but he's not wise, at least not yet. We're pretty sure he's going to gain wisdom, though.

I must have heard him say it a dozen times, and I never knew what to say either. At first I wondered if that was because I didn't know the meaning of ironic. So I looked it up. ("Noah Writes a B & B Letter".42)

Noah recognizes that he doesn't know something, and rather than let it go, he decides that he'll seek out the right answer. Nobody else is making him figure out what "ironic" means. He truly wants to know.

"The tone of being patient and tolerant as if the questions I am asking are dumb questions. They are not dumb questions. I need to know what you know that I do not."

"I don't know what you don't know, so how can I know what I know and you don't?"

"Now, that is a dumb question. That is really a very stupid question." ("Nadia Tells of Turtle Love".118-120)

Nadia's angry because other people know things she doesn't. She can't stand not knowing the things other people know when the knowledge in question is related to her own life.

It [sixth grade] was still the place where kids could add, subtract, multiply and divide, and read. Mostly, they could read—really read. Sixth grade still meant that kids could begin to get inside the print and to the meaning. (3.3)

According to Mrs. Olinski, sixth grade is magical. However much sixth graders might be rude and annoying in other ways in the book (like burping and calling each other names), they still have this capability to figure out meaning. The really good ones even want to.

Ethan rang in as the last syllable sounded.


Ethan Potter would know all four parts.

Yes, yes, yes, and yes. (3.12-15)

Four parts, four yesses, four Souls. Who says three is the magic number?

Something had happened at Sillington House. Something made me pull sounds out of my silence the way that Julian pulled puzzle pieces out of Nadia's hair.

Had I gained something at Sillington house? Or had I lost something there? The answer was yes. ("Ethan Explains the B and B Inn".221)

Thanks for clearing that up, Ethan. Another cryptic moment from E. L. Konigsburg.

Nadia said, "Noah, is there any subject in this whole world that you do not know more about than every other being on this planet?" ("Julian Narrates When Ginger Played Annie's Sandy".14)

Nadia's question implies that Noah is know-it-all. And, yeah, he probably does know more about facts than anyone else—but all four of The Souls have some sort of special knowledge.

"Part of the theater experience is learning to be a good audience. You have not been a good audience. You have been a very bad one. I am sorry that you have not learned at home how to act in public. I am ashamed for you because I know you are not ashamed for yourselves." ("Julian Narrates When Ginger Played Annie's Sandy".127)

Kids these days, amirite? Mrs. Olinski isn't the only one who doesn't think much of modern youth.

"The front of this classroom is privileged territory. There are only two reasons for you to be here. One, you are teaching something to the rest of the class or, two, you have been invited. From now on, the only tricks that I am willing to put up with are those that you can first explain and then teach." (6.24)

This is part of the smackdown Mrs. Olinski gives Hamilton and another kid (Jared Lord).

"They worried, Mrs. Olinski, because you were on the verge of choosing another. Such a choice would have been disastrous."

Mrs. Olinski had never told anyone—anyone—that she had been on the verge of choosing another. […] "But I did not," she said defensively. (8.32-3)

Mrs. Olinski selected her team wisely, even though she didn't know why she was making the choices she was. In fact, choosing based on gut—wisdom—turns out to have been wiser than choosing based on knowledge.

The View from Saturday Wisdom and Knowledge Study Group

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