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Nothing But The Truth Literary Essay Structure

Nothing But the Truth: A Documentary Novel is a 1992 novel written by Avi. The book is a young adult novel in a modified epistolary style through diary entries, personal letters, school memos and transcripts of dialogue. It tells the story of an incident in a New Hampshire town called Harrison where a boy is suspended from school for humming the United States National Anthem[1] as well as the effects of this story receiving national publicity. The main theme of the novel is the subjectivity of truth and that while individual statements may be true, taken separately they may not give an accurate picture of an event.

Nothing But the Truth won a 1992 Newbery Honor.[2][3] The novel was later adapted into a play.[4]

Plot Summary[edit]

Philip Malloy is a track-obsessed ninth grader at Harrison High School in New Hampshire. He blames his English teacher, Margaret Narwin, for his poor performance in her class, and he earns a D for his grade. Since he is no longer eligible to try out for the track team, he avoids telling his parents and instead pretends that he no longer has an interest in trying out. Throughout his time in school, the number of class time disturbances increases. His humming the national anthem when he's meant to stand "at silent, respectful attention. Mrs. Narwin asks him to stop multiple times. After three days of humming, he is given the chance to apologize to Narwin for his disrespect towards her. After Philip refuses to express regret, Vice Principal Dr. Joseph Palleni is called by district mandated procedure to suspend him for a two days.

Philip then tells his parents that he was suspended for singing the National Anthem. Mr. Malloy (Philip's father), shares this with their neighbor, Ted Griffen, who arranges an interview between Philip and a local journalist named Jennifer Stewart. Ms. Stewart decides to pursue Philip's story about the suspension and goes on to speak to many of the adults involved in the incident: the school superintendent, Dr. Albert Seymour; the principal, Dr. Gertrude Doane; the vice principal, Dr. Joseph Palleni; and Ms. Narwin. Ms. Stewart's slanted newspaper article quickly garners national attention when it is picked up by the Associated Press. Philip and his "anthem singing" controversy are soon elevated into the national spotlight; leading many to laud him for his patriotism and condemn the school's (alleged) attempts to stymie it. Meanwhile, Harrison School District faces a critical school board election bearing significant implications over the school's future. With funding already in shortage, there is an urgent concern that the school could suffer greatly from further budget cuts. In the midst of the controversy, Miss. Narwin is asked to take a break from teaching, and she reluctantly agrees. This is soon followed by her resignation and she leaves to visit her sister in Florida. After using Philip's story as a platform, Ted Griffen is elected to the Harrison School district school board. At this post, he declines to extend much needed funding to Harrison High school in a demonstration of disapproval for their handling of the incident. When Philip returns to school, he has trouble adjusting to his dubious notoriety and becomes an outcast. His role in the dismissal of Ms. Narwin and his invitation of a media firestorm on the Harrison community fuel feelings of resentment toward him from his peers. He is harassed by other students both on the bus and in the classroom while his crush, Allison, openly resents him for the removal of her favorite teacher (Ms. Narwin). Matters decline further as Philip is informed by a friend that the student body has begun drafting a petition with the intention to compell him into revealing the truth about the incident (an idea that originated from the track coach, Coach Jamison). This propels Philip into a breaking point and he begins skipping school, causing concern from his parents. Philip's mother ultimately decides to transfer him to a private school called Washington Academy (this despite protests from his father, as the move would take up all of Philip's money saved for college). At Philip's new school, he is urged to demonstrate his patriotism by singing along to "The Star-Spangled Banner." At that moment, he starts to cry and admits, "I don't know the words."


Nothing but the Truth Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics.  This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of Nothing but the Truth by Avi.

Nothing but the Truth: A Documentary Novel is a 1992 epistolary novel by American writer Edward Irving Wortis, better known as Avi. Told through a collection of diary entries, letters, school memos, and dialogue, it follows the story of an incident at a school in New Hampshire where a boy is suspended for humming the United States National Anthem. This incident then receives national publicity, turning upside down the lives of both the student who was suspended, and the teacher who referred him for discipline. As indicated by the title, the primary theme in the novel is the idea that truth is subjective. It explores the idea that while individual incidents may be accurate, they can given an inaccurate portrayal of the full event. It also explores what is known as the snowball effect, where a small incident spirals out of control. Nothing by the Truth is regularly taught in schools and is critically acclaimed for its complex story structure and political themes. It won the 1992 Newbery Honor, a runner-up prize to the Newbery Medal, and was later adapted into a stage production.

The main character of Nothing but the Truth is Philip Malloy, a running-obsessed aspiring track star at Harrison High School in New Hampshire. He resents his English teacher, Margaret Narwin, for giving him a D in her class, which kept him from trying out for the track team. He avoids telling his parents why he didn’t try out, instead pretending he’s lost interest in track. He acts out his resentment by acting out in class, making jokes and sarcastic responses. Miss Narwin gets the bulk of this treatment, and it culminates when he loudly hums the national anthem in her class instead of standing in silent, respectful attention as ordered. She asks him to stop, but he continues to do it every day. After three days of humming, he is sent to the principal’s office and ordered to apologize to Miss Narwin for his disrespect. Vice Principal Dr. Joseph Palleni is now mandated to suspend Philip for two days.

Philip proceeds to tell his parents that he was suspended for singing the national anthem. Angry, Philip’s father reports this to their neighbor, Ted Griffen. Griffen is an outspoken man who is currently running for the Harrison School board, and he sees an opportunity. Ted sets up an interview for Philip with Jennifer Stewart, a reporter who has been reporting on his campaign. Mrs. Stewart proceeds to investigate the story further. She interviews other adults in the district, including Superintendent Albert Seymour (who denies that there’s a policy against singing the national anthem but doesn’t know the context), Principal Gertrude Doane (who doesn’t know much about the incident beyond a brief memo she received), Dr. Palleni (who is defensive about his role in Philip’s suspension), and Miss Narwin (who seems shell-shocked that the incident is causing this much drama). Philip becomes a local hero after Jennifer Stewart publishes a clearly biased article that paints him as a patriotic victim of an unpatriotic teacher, and the Associated Press soon picks up the story.

Harrison School District is taken aback by the media sensation over the incident. With a new round of budget cuts potentially coming with school elections, the administration is worried about the bad press and asks Miss Narwin to take a break from teaching. She reluctantly agrees, and then goes further by deciding to resign altogether and visit her sister in Florida. Philip tries to apologize to her briefly before she goes, but she reacts angrily and doesn’t want to talk to him. Ted Griffen uses Philip’s story to rile up the voters and is elected to the school board. Philip, upon his return to school, is taken aback by his newfound fame and is treated as an outcast by his fellow students. It turns out that many students – including Philip’s crush Allison – considered Miss Narwin their favorite teacher. The student body even starts a petition to get Philip to apologize – and idea initiated by the track coach, Coach Jamison. Philip can’t handle it anymore, and starts skipping school, causing great concern for his parents. Eventually, they decide to transfer Philip to a private school called Washington Academy. Philip’s father is opposed to this, not wanting to spend Philip’s college fund. On his first day at Washington Academy, Philip is asked to sing along to the national anthem – and tearfully admits that he doesn’t know the words.

Edward Irving Wortis, better known as Avi, is an American writer of children’s and young adult novels. He has written more than seventy-five books over a thirty-year career, and has been widely honored. He received Newbery Honors for 1991’s The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle and 1992’s Nothing but the Truth, and won the Newbery Award for his Medieval mystery Crispin: The Cross of Lead in 2003. Writing in a variety of genres, from ghost story to sports comedy to political commentary, his books are popular in school libraries and are often taught in schools.

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