Bless the Beasts and Children

by: Glendon Swarthout

Chapters 1–3

Summary Chapters 1–3

In a technique he continues to use throughout the novel, Swarthout effectively employs italics to comment on the characters' individual backgrounds and disorders. By inserting these passages into the narrative, the author refers to their past experiences and allows the reader a more intimate perspective on their thoughts and feelings. In these first chapters, for example, the author discusses Goodenow's bedwetting habit and suicide attempts, Billy Lally's imaginary friends "the Ooms," who live in his family's sauna, and Lally one's violent behavior toward his brother's pets. In addition, italics mark occasional descriptions of a camp life in which an atmosphere of cruel competition thrives. The Bedwetters occupy the very lowest of positions in the social hierarchy of the camp. Each cabin at Box Canyon Boys Camp adopts the name of an Indian tribe. The rivaling cabins compete for the title of the Apaches, the most respected of all tribes. However, this group of boys has no name except the Bedwetters, and receive only ridicule and mockery from their fellow campers.