Character Development of Miss Ferenczi in Gryphon by Charles Baxter

Essay by Serena_DangCollege, UndergraduateB, June 2009

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In the short story Gryphon, Charles Baxter creates a far-from-perfect character, the substitute teacher Miss Ferenczi, who lives in a fantasy world without boundaries and tiresome limits. Her arrival has a great influence on the whole rural Five Oaks community. Miss Ferenczi's appearance and behaviors, portrayed through her student's eyes, place her as a symbol of reformation and immerses her students into a rich and fascinating world.

Charles Baxter introduces Miss Ferenczi into the fourth grade class of Five Oaks community in a mysterious way. Unlike other boring normal substitute teachers the children are used to, she comes in with her purple purse and checkerboard lunchbox signaling the beginning of an unusual experience. As she walks to the blackboard, picking up pieces of white and green chalk, she draws a large oak tree on the left side of the blackboard saying the class needs this tree in it. This first scene alone has already created a mystic fog about the new teacher's behavior and personality.

She then tells the class about her royal Hungarian ancestor, which adds more to the strange atmosphere. She was proud of her mother being a famous pianist who succeeded her first concert in London for "crowned heads." The way she nostalgically looks up to the ceiling, makes the students follow her eyes but see nothing except for ceiling tiles. Her actions are far more than what fourth graders can possibly understand. This is the start of strange events following in the plot. However the most remarkable detail is her physical appearance: "her face had two prominent lines, descending vertically from the sides of her mouth to her chin." This abnormal feature is foreshadowing for what happens later on and also a hint at an unreal, numinous personality. The two lines remind Tommy, the little narrator,