Sydney Owen Hour 1Gentlemen, when asked about who was a big influence on your road tomanhood, who comes to mind? Notice the word “who”. When talking about theascension to manhood, most people think of a person or a certain event thatmade them a man. For Will McLean, the influence to his manhood was thecity of Charleston.Charleston influences Will’s ascension to manhood because of the city’saffect on his personal mood, how he grows to love the city after eachsummer, and what he learns from Abigail St.
Croix.The city of Charleston can lure you in like bait on a hook. CommerceSt. Croix talks often about how the city owns him, how he can’t leave eventhough sometimes he wishes he could. For Will McLean, the city shapes himand 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 CharlestonSeptember. “The drought seemed an appropriate symbol for how I felt afterthe suicide of Poteete.
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Or perhaps I only noticed weather then, when myspirit was dry and brittle” (209). Will feels as the weather does, “interrible need of storm and change and deliverance.” After the suicide ofone cadet the previous year, Will finds himself unable to be the sarcasticsmart aleck he normally is.
Spending time alone thinking is one of his newpast times – he just wishes for closure. Charleston’s climate seeminglycorrelates with how Will is feeling, one of the city’s ways of reeling themin for good.Cadets oftentimes find themselves cursing the Institute and the city ofCharleston during their plebe year. The city houses the Institute, home ofthe 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 upperclassmenalike see the skyline and love it.
They see the white battlements andparapets of the Institute and no longer shudder. “It was 1966, the war inVietnam was gradually escalating, and Charleston had never looked sobeautiful, so untouchable, or so completely mine” (9). Will, like so manyothers, experiences the sights and smells of Charleston and feels a senseof security.Will knows a lot about Charleston from his experiences at theInstitute, but Abigail St. Croix teaches him the inner workings of how thecity functioned as a whole. On Sundays, they walk through the streets intown and just take everything in.
She tells him how to make Charleston hisbasis for comparison about anything for the future. “But what I loved mostwas the Saturdays that I spent with Abigail St. Croix” (254). She stops atthe window of antique stores and tells him why each piece was in there andwhy she liked them. She explains the social structure, and why it willalways be the way it is.
This city is based on history, and the people init aren’t about to change.A person influences most men, more than likely his father, whileascending to that part of life known as manhood. For Will McLean, theinfluence to his manhood was the city of Charleston. The weather reflectedhis mood; he learned how to love the city more through Abigail St. Croixand he grew to love it more and more with each passing summer.”The charm of history and its enigmatic lesson consist in the factthat, from age to age, nothing changes and yet everything is completelydifferent.” -Billy Joel