Frindle

by

Andrew Clements

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Frindle: Chapter 12 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
By the following Thursday, the kids at the Westfield high school and middle school have all started using "frindle." Nick becomes a hero overnight but soon discovers that fame comes at a price. He can no longer walk around and not be recognized, and this makes him feel shy and awkward. At school, Nick's classmates seem to expect him to be funny all the time. Nick knows this is impossible, and he feels as though everyone is watching him. Fortunately, Mrs. Allen and Mr. Allen support Nick and believe he did nothing wrong. They also think it's amazing that their son invented a new word.
Here, Nick learns that there are consequences for being the face of change: he now has the responsibility of looking like a person who creates new words and incites rebellion, when that's only who he is some of the time. This seeks to impress upon readers that people who are the face of change are just people, with private and complex thoughts, feelings, and fears, and should be treated as such.
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Bud Lawrence, one of Westfield's most successful businessmen, also thinks that the new word is fantastic. He began his career in business 30 years ago when he started buying fast-food restaurants and now he's one of the richest men in town. When he read the article in The Westfield Gazette, he filed a preliminary trademark claim on "frindle" and began selling pens with "frindle" printed on them. Bud sold out of pens in the first week, but the fervor died down around Halloween and he moved on to other projects.
Bud's ability to capitalize on "frindle" and make money off of the word expands the novel's scope once again. It first points to the ways in which protests like this do often require money, and in doing so, it offers another way for the "frindle" mania to spread through merchandise. It also points to the way that capitalism may exploit protest in the name of profit.
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However, Alice Lunderson, a part-time employee at the local CBS station, reads the article in The Westfield Gazette on the following Wednesday as she pores over local papers. She knows the story has potential, so she calls her manager. Her manager sends the story all the way to New York, and the CBS evening news decides that it will be a fantastic closing segment for the following evening. Alice is thrilled; it'll be her first assignment to make the national news.
Through all of this, it's important to keep in mind that the media are giving "frindle" the opportunity to enter into the vocabularies of hundreds of people. This illustrates how the media landscape can both help change language by promoting new words, as well as how individuals like Nick can achieve celebrity thanks to media attention.
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On Wednesday afternoon, Alice interviews Mrs. Granger. Mrs. Granger insists that the dictionary is a fine tool for educating youngsters and says that kids need to learn that words and language have rules and histories that make sense. When Alice asks if Mrs. Granger has lost the fight against "frindle," Mrs. Granger simply says that it's not over yet.
Mrs. Granger's comment about kids needing to learn the history of language shows that she's pretending to believe that language only changed in the past and isn't continuing to change in the present.
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Get the entire Frindle LitChart as a printable PDF.
Frindle PDF
When Alice and her crew arrive at the Allens' house, Mr. Allen and Mrs. Allen are ready. They squish Nick on the couch between them and Mrs. Allen puts her foot on top of Nick's. They decided that she'd push on his foot if she felt she needed to answer any questions for him. Nervously, Nick tells Alice how he made up "frindle": Mrs. Granger told him that all words are made up by people, and he wanted to see if it was true that someone could make up a word and make it mean something.
Notice that the way that Nick frames the birth of "frindle" expresses a great deal of respect and deference for Mrs. Granger. This shows that even though he believes that her fight is genuine, he recognizes that he could've only come up with "frindle" thanks to her teaching. In doing this, Nick acknowledges Mrs. Granger's power as a teacher.
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Mrs. Allen steps on Nick's foot when Alice asks if Nick was surprised when Mrs. Granger reacted with anger to the new word. Mrs. Allen says that it did create a disruption, but Mrs. Granger is a fine teacher. Nick says that without Mrs. Granger, he wouldn't have learned so much about words. Alice asks Nick what's next for him and for "frindle," and Nick says that the word isn't his anymore. All the people who use the word will decide what will happen with it.
Again, both Nick and Mrs. Allen understand that in order to keep this interview free of controversy, they need to be deferential and thankful to Mrs. Granger's lessons. This re-centers the conflict as one that's about language and how words change, not as a conflict between rebellious students and uptight teachers.
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The next evening, the CBS anchorman introduces the segment by saying that in 1791, a theater manager created the word "quiz" out of thin air. Over 20 million people see the segment, including the producer of The Late Show with David Letterman and a staff writer for People. Over the next three weeks, nearly everyone in the U.S. hears about "frindle" and kids start using it en masse. Bud is elated when he begins getting orders for frindle-branded items.
The fact that kids around the country start using "frindle" after seeing the segments and interviews on TV cements the role of the media in changing language, as it's clearly one of the best ways for a new word to spread. Note too that Nick is becoming famous on a much larger scale; this implies that even more people now expect him to be nothing more than the creator of "frindle."
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Bud's lawyer, however, tells Bud that there will be complications since Nick Allen actually made up the word and everyone in the country knows it. The lawyer tells Bud to make a deal with Mr. Allen to buy the rights to the word. When Mrs. Allen tells her husband the next day that he needs to call Bud Lawrence about the "frindle" thing, Mr. Allen is unenthused. He's tired of all the fuss and of being pulled away from his hardware store, but he stops in at Bud's office anyway.
Mr. Allen's reaction to the fame shows that the pressure isn't just on Nick; it affects his entire family and it likely affects the entire town as well. This begins to complicate the idea of fame and suggests that it's not always a good or easy thing. In the case of Mr. Allen, it takes him away from his job and makes it harder to spend time with his family.
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Bud compliments Mr. Allen on Nick's ingenuity and sees his opportunity when Mr. Allen admits that he's ready for the fuss to die down. Bud begins telling Mr. Allen about all the orders he has for frindle-branded pens and tee shirts and says he even has a deal in the works with pen producers in Hong Kong and Japan. Mr. Allen sinks lower in his chair. Bud explains that he needs Mr. Allen's permission to use "frindle" on these products. He points to a big stack of papers and explains that it’s a contract giving Nick 30 percent of all profits from any frindle-branded things. If he signs, Mr. Allen won't have to do a thing.
Though Mr. Allen and Bud see the contract as a way to make the fuss go away, the contract is actually important for a different reason: it cements Nick's role as the inventor of the word in a way that makes it impossible for anyone else to claim that they invented it first. Essentially, while it alleviates a burden from Mr. Allen, it also cements Nick's celebrity and ingenuity for the world to see.
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Mr. Allen barely has to think about it before he signs the contract and the trademark papers. Before he leaves, Bud hands Mr. Allen a check for $2,250—Nick's cut of the proceeds from "frindle" sales in the first three weeks. Mr. Allen is shocked and asks Bud to keep the money thing secret from Nick, as he wants Nick to learn how to save on his own. Bud agrees. After Mr. Allen leaves, he walks to the bank and sets up a trust account for Nick. He sets up all of Bud's payments to deposit automatically into the account and wonders if things will ever be the same again.
The simple fact that Nick is earning money from frindle-branded merchandise suggests that while Mr. Allen sees fame as a burden, there are actually upsides to it. With the money, Nick will have far more power to do things or affect change once he gets control of the account, which shows how someone's role as a celebrity can turn them into a powerful figure in a number of ways.
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