Summary: January

Greg and Rowley invent a game for the Big Wheel in which Greg throws a football at Rowley as he rides down a hill. After a while, Rowley wants to trade places, but Greg refuses. The next time he and Rowley play the Big Wheel game, Rowley breaks his hand in a fall. When Rowley becomes popular at school with his cast, Greg tries wrapping his hand in gauze and faking an infection, but it doesn’t get him the attention he wants. 

As the third quarter begins at school, Greg signs up for Independent Study, and his class is assigned to build a robot. The boys and girls cannot agree, so they split into two groups. The class gets canceled, however, when the teacher finds a list the boys made of all the words that the robot should not say. Greg and Rowley sign up for Safety Patrol and are assigned to walking kindergarteners home halfway through the day. Greg feels happy because the job means that they will miss most of his pre-algebra class.

Analysis: January

The theme of friendship comes to the forefront in this section as Greg and Rowley’s bond is further tested when Greg causes Rowley’s hand to get broken. In another example of bullying others to relieve his own aggressions, Greg, caught up in his frustration with not being popular and with Rowley’s indifference to what others think, refuses to take his turn on the Big Wheel, and Rowley breaks his hand. When Rowley gains sympathy from the girls with his broken hand, Greg then uses Rowley’s misfortune to further his own popularity. Greg is so focused on himself and his quest for popularity, he fails to see how he hurt his friend in the process. Greg makes the same mistake with his assignment to the Safety Patrol. More focused on the popularity his safety patrol role will bring, he ignores the kindergarteners he is supposed to be helping when they need him.

Gender roles are a significant part of Greg’s school experience this month. Greg enjoys the skills he learns in Home Economics, but because they are feminine, he decides not to enroll in Home Economics 2. Greg values popularity more than developing his own interests and focuses more on what others think he should do rather than what he really wants to do. The independent study class immediately separates the boys from the girls and creates competition between them. When Greg labels the boys “serious workers,” he tells readers he does not value the girls’ ideas and that he thinks feminine details like lip gloss are silly and less important. When Greg immediately labels the girls’ idea as “stupid,” it illustrates his belief in stereotypical gender roles. Since readers already know that Greg enjoys many typically feminine things, Greg’s acting like anything feminine is beneath him demonstrates a lack of self-awareness.