Sydney on the harsh weather of a
Gentlemen, when asked about who was a big influence on your road to
manhood, who comes to mind? Notice the word “who”. When talking about the
ascension to manhood, most people think of a person or a certain event that
made them a man. For Will McLean, the influence to his manhood was the
city of Charleston.
Charleston influences Will’s ascension to manhood because of the city’s
affect on his personal mood, how he grows to love the city after each
summer, and what he learns from Abigail St. Croix.
The city of Charleston can lure you in like bait on a hook. Commerce
St. Croix talks often about how the city owns him, how he can’t leave even
though sometimes he wishes he could. For Will McLean, the city shapes him
and becomes part of his life so much that as he returns after summer break,
he finds his mood reflecting on the harsh weather of a Charleston
September. “The drought seemed an appropriate symbol for how I felt after
the suicide of Poteete. Or perhaps I only noticed weather then, when my
spirit was dry and brittle” (209). Will feels as the weather does, “in
terrible need of storm and change and deliverance.” After the suicide of
one cadet the previous year, Will finds himself unable to be the sarcastic
smart aleck he normally is. Spending time alone thinking is one of his new
past times – he just wishes for closure. Charleston’s climate seemingly
correlates with how Will is feeling, one of the city’s ways of reeling them
in for good.
Cadets oftentimes find themselves cursing the Institute and the city of
Charleston during their plebe year. The city houses the Institute, home of
the horrid place putting them through all the torture that they endure.
Some that get their own personal Taming may better know Charleston as Hell.
But, if strong enough to survive, returning sophomores and upperclassmen
alike see the skyline and love it. They see the white battlements and
parapets of the Institute and no longer shudder. “It was 1966, the war in
Vietnam was gradually escalating, and Charleston had never looked so
beautiful, so untouchable, or so completely mine” (9). Will, like so many
others, experiences the sights and smells of Charleston and feels a sense
Will knows a lot about Charleston from his experiences at the
Institute, but Abigail St. Croix teaches him the inner workings of how the
city functioned as a whole. On Sundays, they walk through the streets in
town and just take everything in. She tells him how to make Charleston his
basis for comparison about anything for the future. “But what I loved most
was the Saturdays that I spent with Abigail St. Croix” (254). She stops at
the window of antique stores and tells him why each piece was in there and
why she liked them. She explains the social structure, and why it will
always be the way it is. This city is based on history, and the people in
it aren’t about to change.
A person influences most men, more than likely his father, while
ascending to that part of life known as manhood. For Will McLean, the
influence to his manhood was the city of Charleston. The weather reflected
his mood; he learned how to love the city more through Abigail St. Croix
and he grew to love it more and more with each passing summer.
“The charm of history and its enigmatic lesson consist in the fact
that, from age to age, nothing changes and yet everything is completely
different.” -Billy Joel