by Gary Paulsen
Laurel-Leaf Books, 1995
105 pages / $6.29 buy from Amazon
1. For my fifth grade class, Gary Paulsen was considered the pinnacle of literary merit. Second only to R. L. Stine.
2. Most people I talk to remember reading Paulsen’s novel Hatchet pretty well, but I’ve yet to meet anyone who remembers The Rifle.
3. The Rifle is about a man who carves a muzzle-loaded rifle out of a tree branch and spends a long time on it. He then sells it to a Revolutionary War soldier who dies of dysentery after killing a lot of British officers. Then an old man buys the rifle. He’s lonely and his life sucks, and the boy who lives across the street’s life is lonely, too. The boy’s dad is a trucker and doesn’t care about him. Then the man’s gun accidentally fires and kills the boy.
4. I lied about that.
5. I think in my memory I joined this novel with another novel that I read that same Summer as a kid. I dreamed an entire subplot about the little boy and his relationship with his trucker dad, writing him postcards and eating ice cream.
6. I think that book was written by Beverly Cleary.
7. She was pretty well liked in my grade school, too.
8. Here’s the real plot of The Rifle:
9. The book is even sadder than I remembered.
10. The muzzle-loaded rifle was made by a dedicated gunsmith and he did sell it to a sharpshooting soldier, but after the soldier dies of dysentery, the gun is stuck in an attic until a guy finds it and sells it to a dude at a gun show. The gun show dude is your stereotypical stand-yer-ground-pry-em-out-of-my-cold-dead-hands- lives-in-a-van-off-the-grid-type dude. This gun guy drinks a lot of beer and the omniscient narrator tells us that later he gets stomach cancer and dies. This stomach cancer guy’s van breaks down and he trades the rifle and an Elvis painting on velvet to a mechanic for van parts. The mechanic takes both the gun and the painting home and places them on his mantel. Then one day, he’s lighting a fire in the fireplace and a spark from the fire lights some old powder in the gun and it goes off and the bullet flies through the house and kills a little boy who lives across the street. Then the novel discusses how the loss of the little boy’s life ruins everyone else’s lives. READ MORE >
August 29th, 2013 / 2:28 pm