Purcell is one of the narrator’s closest friends and Big Jeff’s cousin. Purcell and Big Jeff are both named Jeff Purcell, so most of the students call him “Little Jeff” because he is smaller than Big Jeff. He hates this name, however, so the narrator calls him Purcell out of courtesy. Purcell is on the editorial board of the school’s literary review, Troubadour, alongside the narrator. Later in the school year, he stops going to chapel, arguing that he doesn’t believe in God, but he ultimately caves in and continues to go so that he won’t be expelled. Like the narrator, Purcell loves Ernest Hemingway—and when Hemingway selects the narrator’s story as the winner of a writing competition, Purcell gives the narrator a first edition copy of Hemingway’s In Our Time. Despite their close friendship, the narrator is often envious of Purcell because of his wealthy background.
Purcell (“Little Jeff”) Character Timeline in Old School
The timeline below shows where the character Purcell (“Little Jeff”) appears in Old School. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: Class Picture
Chapter 2: On Fire
Chapter 3: Frost
...was the headmaster who persuaded Robert Frost to visit; Frost was his teacher. After dinner, Purcell chats with the narrator and reveals his astonishment at the fact that George’s poem was... (full context)
Chapter 4: Übermensch
...them. On the afternoon that Grandjohn and Patty leave, another student tells the narrator that Purcell won the audience with Ayn Rand. When the narrator is discharged from the infirmary, he... (full context)
Chapter 6: The Forked Tongue
Another thing stokes the narrator’s frustration: the stir over Hemingway is growing feverish, and Purcell loves Hemingway’s work. But, the narrator knows that (like himself) Purcell doesn’t want to be... (full context)
Chapter 7: When in Disgrace with Fortune