The 57 Bus

The 57 Bus

by

Dashka Slater

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Karl Character Analysis

Sasha’s father and Debbie’s husband. Karl is a kindergarten teacher at one of the local schools in Oakland, and he is an exceedingly kind and accepting man. He is understanding and supportive of Sasha’s genderqueer identity, and he is patient as Sasha discovers and explores that identity. He finds Sasha’s dedication to their gender identity “admirable,” and he corrects others when they use gendered pronouns to address Sasha. Karl is committed to helping others understand Sasha’s identity as well, and he even sends a letter to his colleges and students’ families explaining nonbinary gender after Richard attacks Sasha on the 57 bus. Karl shows compassion towards Richard as well, and he is accepting of his apologies and remorse. Like Debbie, Karl does not want to see Richard tried as an adult for his assault on Sasha, and he doesn’t want the boy to spend his life in prison. Instead, Karl hopes that Richard can learn from his senseless attack on Sasha and become an ally for the LGBTQ community.

Karl Quotes in The 57 Bus

The The 57 Bus quotes below are all either spoken by Karl or refer to Karl. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Gender and Sexuality Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Macmillan edition of The 57 Bus published in 2017.
Part 1: Bathrooms Quotes

It was tough sometimes, watching Sasha navigate a world that didn’t even have a category for them. Occasionally, Debbie wished Sasha would ease up a little—resist correcting well-meaning relatives who said he instead of they, for example. But there was something admirable about it, too, Karl pointed out. Knowing how shy Sasha was, he admired Sasha’s newfound willingness to speak up, to stand out, to be seen.

Related Characters: Sasha, Debbie, Karl
Page Number: 41
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 4: Restorative Justice Quotes

“RJ isn’t a guarantee of leniency,” Baliga cautioned. “It’s about dispensing with punitiveness for its own sake and trying to produce an outcome that will be more healing for everyone involved.”

Still, Baliga knew that there was little hope of diverting Richard from the criminal justice system entirely. “Given the severity of the harm to Sasha, we didn’t expect that the DA would allow the case to be diverted to restorative justice,” she said.

But if anyone seemed right for restorative justice, it was these two families, who had already expressed compassion for one another. “They were perfect candidates for this dialogue,” she said. “All of them were such gorgeously enlightened, beautiful people.”

Related Characters: Sujatha Baliga (speaker), Sasha, Richard, Debbie, Karl, Jasmine
Page Number: 241
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 4: Progress Report Quotes

“From the start we have been opposed to Richard’s being tried as an adult,” he said. “His actions appear to have been impulsive, immature, and unpremeditated. He did make a big mistake and recognizes that. He asked for our forgiveness.” Karl’s voice broke. “Sasha, Debbie, and I have forgiven Richard,” he whispered. “We hope the state will focus more on preparing him for the world beyond incarceration than on punishing him.”

Related Characters: Karl (speaker), Sasha, Richard, Debbie
Page Number: 286
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The 57 Bus LitChart as a printable PDF.
The 57 Bus PDF

Karl Character Timeline in The 57 Bus

The timeline below shows where the character Karl appears in The 57 Bus. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: Luke and Samantha
Gender and Sexuality Theme Icon
Discrimination and Social Justice Theme Icon
...middle school, Sasha was “brainy, shy, and introverted,” making them an easy kid to ignore. Karl, Sasha’s father, says that it was like Sasha wore an “invisibility cloak”—they always just sort... (full context)
Part 1: How Do You Know What Gender You Are?
Gender and Sexuality Theme Icon
Binary Thought and Inclusive Language Theme Icon
Sasha’s father, Karl, had already told Sasha that he “just knew” that he was a man. Outside of... (full context)
Gender and Sexuality Theme Icon
Binary Thought and Inclusive Language Theme Icon
...they belonged. “Are you genderqueer?” asked Debbie, Sasha’s mother. “Yeah,” they said. Later, Debbie and Karl read Sasha’s social media post about coming out as genderqueer and the positive comments and... (full context)
Part 1: Running
Gender and Sexuality Theme Icon
Discrimination and Social Justice Theme Icon
One day in 1987, when Karl was jogging just outside of Berkeley, three men pulled alongside him in a car as... (full context)
Gender and Sexuality Theme Icon
Discrimination and Social Justice Theme Icon
When Karl regained consciousness, he was surrounded by bystanders, but the police were never able to find... (full context)
Part 1: Clipboards
Gender and Sexuality Theme Icon
Binary Thought and Inclusive Language Theme Icon
Discrimination and Social Justice Theme Icon
A few years ago, while visiting Karl in the kindergarten classroom where he taught, Sasha noticed that the students’ names were listed... (full context)
Gender and Sexuality Theme Icon
Binary Thought and Inclusive Language Theme Icon
Discrimination and Social Justice Theme Icon
By the time the new school year came around, Sasha had made Karl two new clipboards that separated his students into two lists of “A—M and N—Z.” A... (full context)
Part 3: Phone Call
Gender and Sexuality Theme Icon
Binary Thought and Inclusive Language Theme Icon
Discrimination and Social Justice Theme Icon
At five o’clock in the evening when Sasha calls Karl, he is still at work. “Dad. I need you to come over here right now,”... (full context)
Part 3: Let’s All Take Care of Each Other
Adolescent Crime vs. Adult Crime Theme Icon
Richard never writes another letter; however, Karl writes one to the parents and staff at the school where he teaches. In Karl’s... (full context)
Adolescent Crime vs. Adult Crime Theme Icon
Discrimination and Social Justice Theme Icon
There are plenty of “assumptions,” Karl says, about why this boy started the fire, “but they are just that: assumptions.” Karl... (full context)
Part 3: What They Sent
Discrimination and Social Justice Theme Icon
...only cards from friends and a bouquet of silk flowers from a stranger. Debbie and Karl take the rest home. (full context)
Discrimination and Social Justice Theme Icon
...“An African American? Oh, evil! But then it’s this trans kid wearing a skirt. What?” Karl smiles. “They can’t figure out who to root against,” he says. (full context)
Part 3: Reunion
Gender and Sexuality Theme Icon
Binary Thought and Inclusive Language Theme Icon
...put out the fire that day, he became “a hero, a Good Samaritan.” Debbie and Karl catch Dan up to speed on Sasha’s condition, and when Sasha finally come downstairs, Dan... (full context)
Part 4: What to Say
Accountability, Redemption, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...him do that, and I’m sorry. We’re not hateful people.” She hugs Sasha, Debbie, and Karl, as do the other members of Richard’s family, and soon they are all crying. “I... (full context)
Part 4: Not Wanting To
Accountability, Redemption, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Debbie and Karl “don’t feel much need for restorative justice.” Debbie can’t imagine what could even come it.... (full context)
Part 4: A Prayer
Discrimination and Social Justice Theme Icon
...Sasha with Asperger’s when they were just seven years old. He had told Debbie and Karl to “lower their expectations,” since he had never seen a child with Autism live a... (full context)
Part 4: Victim-Impact Statement
Adolescent Crime vs. Adult Crime Theme Icon
Accountability, Redemption, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Debbie feels better after addressing Richard directly, but Karl can’t get over how young Richard looked. “Poor Jasmine,” Debbie says. “She lost her son... (full context)
Part 4: Mail Delivery
Accountability, Redemption, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Sasha finally receives Richard’s letters in January 2015. Sasha, Karl, and Debbie all appreciate his apologies, but they wish that they had seen the letters... (full context)
Part 4: Progress Report
Binary Thought and Inclusive Language Theme Icon
Discrimination and Social Justice Theme Icon
...canvas purse is covered in LGBTQ buttons and others that simply read “they/them/their.” Debbie and Karl are there too. It is the last Friday in June 2015. Today is Richard’s second... (full context)
Discrimination and Social Justice Theme Icon
Accountability, Redemption, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...will never get another day off from work. The judge does agree, however, to let Karl address the court. Karl speaks “on behalf” of Debbie and Sasha as well and tells... (full context)
Part 4: A Level of Maturity
Adolescent Crime vs. Adult Crime Theme Icon
...“a level of maturity that he didn’t exhibit on the day of the offense.” Taking Karl’s statement into consideration, the judge reduces Richard sentence to five years, and recommends that he... (full context)